emotional intelligence at work uses a model that postulates that work (and all other) relationships go through five stages †.
The first of these is the honeymoon stage. This is a widely accepted concept. For example, in politics a newly elected prime minister, president or ‘leader’ is considered to have a honeymoon period whose end is gleefully marked by all concerned. [In Jeremy Corbyn’s case, this period lasted one nanosecond.]
It’s a period in which each partner in the relationship tends to see the best in other, to see the most potential in the relationship, and to overlook (or not even be aware of) any ways in which the other might fall short.
This stage is abruptly ended by the power struggle stage. Now each party can see all the ‘faults’ in the other, is often genuinely shocked when the faults materialise, as if they hadn’t existed until that moment. As the name implies, it is a time of fights and dissent, of needing to be right. The parties polarise into good guy/bad guy, optimist/pessimist, and any other dyad that will fuel the fight. Most of all, it can be considered the period in which each party is fighting to have their needs met in the relationship.
Power struggle can be exhausting, and it’s followed by the dead zone stage. This is where both parties retire to lick their wounds: they don’t want the relationship to end but:
And the last of these is the commonest because, at its heart, the dead zone is the place where we refuse to take the next step.
The next stage is partnership. It’s what the name suggests. Looking back, it’s clear that the first three stages were all about “me, me, me”. It’s only in partnership that the relationship becomes about “us”. This is, obviously, a far more productive and useful place to be for any workplace.
The reason people can’t or won’t go there is their unwillingness to take the next step—the step out of dead zone into partnership. And, at base, that unwillingness (that refusal, I’m tempted to say) stems from doubt. Doubt they can do it, doubt they will be accepted if they do, doubt that other people will have recognised they’ve done it, doubt they will be rejected having stepped out of their comfort zone, doubt… . Any doubt the ego can create in order to keep them ‘safe’.
In the well known scene in Indiana Jones and the last crusade, Mr Jones has to cross an abyss, trusting that the bridge he has been told is there, but which he can’t see, will support him. He has to take the next step with no proof it will be supported. It is.
Once two people can make their relationship about “us”, each of them can make it about the other person. In the fifth stage, leadership, people typically are able to make the other person more important than them, as Chuck Spezzano has put it.
This is not behaving as if, or feeling, or thinking that the other person were more important: that route leads to making oneself inferior, ultimately to becoming a victim. It is about ‘acting as if’. If each party in the relationship is making the other more important than them, that is going to be the most useful way of deepening and enhancing the relationship and, in business terms, growing the business.
† Note: There are further stages, Vision and Mastery, and these might be addressed later. In truth, if most of its businesses’ relationships were in Partnership and Leadership, the economy of any country would be utterly transformed.
About this model
This model was originally developed by Susan Campbell from original research (see The couple’s journey, 1980).
It was substantially developed by Chuck Spezzano and integrated into his Psychology of vision model of personal development. Chuck’s main contribution was to beef up stage 3 from Campbell’s stability (“the illusion of peace”) to dead zone, and to distinguish the various steps within the power struggle and dead zone stages. The best writeup is in Wholeheartedness (Chuck Spezzano, 2000, pp 25-47), from which this presentation has been derived.
I have modified the description of the model to make it refer to and reflect the experience of people in the workplace. No part of the model itself has been changed.
> Stages of a work relationship—introduction
> Stages 1 and 2: honeymoon and power struggle
> Stage 3: dead zone
> Stages 4 and 5: partnership and leadership
> Leadership overview
by Jeremy Marchant . last updated lightly edited 28 june 2017 . the picture is from a vinyl LP cover by Holger Matthies for a recording of Vivaldi’s Four seasons. Brilliant.
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