Transformation in the workplace - SAAP Conference 2016

At the recently held conference in Pretoria organised by the Southern African Association for Pastoral Work (SAAP) Dr Johan Dill, Senior Consultant at ITD, conducted a workshop focusing on “Transformation in the Workplace: The Role of Appreciative Inquiry in Change”.

This presentation tied in with the main theme of the conference “Healing as a Pastoral Challenge” introduced by the keynote speaker Prof Wentzel Coetzer.

In his presentation, Dill explored the current pastoral challenge faced by counsellors from the perspective of the workplace and industry, where most working people spend their days in stressful and challenging environments. 

He quoted from a 1969 thesis by the late Prof Ernie Marais, his father-in-law, highlighting general anxiety, interpersonal conflict, personal frustration and fear of failure as psychological categories of threat. Almost fifty years later, all these themes of challenging stress and pain are still prevalent in the workplace. 

 As a public practical theologian Dill aligns himself with fellow theologians such as Daniel Louw (hermeneutical approach), Charles Gerkin (hermeneutical approach), Dirk Kotzé (systems-constructivist and narrative approach) and more recently with R Ruard Ganzevoort (empirical-reconstructive and critical constructive approach and Nico Koopman (theology to fulfil its public role towards the community). 

Hermeneutical, contextual, constructivist and public aspects inform Dill’s approach to the modern workplace of business and manufacturing as a complex environment where people have to function optimally. 

Since business situates itself firmly in the marketplace with an associated culture of earnings and profit, pastoral counsellors will have to adapt a new strategy – different to that of the clerical client-pastor relationship. 

In this environment, the pastoral counsellor will have to balance two clients: business and management on the one hand and the employee (or groups of employees) on the other. Serving as a bridge between these seemingly opposed groups the pastoral counsellor has to generate a shared story, co-created by the individual as well as the organization.

Since business situates itself firmly in the marketplace with an associated culture of earnings and profit, pastoral counsellors will have to adapt a new strategy – different to that of the clerical client-pastor relationship.

From a methodological perspective, the counsellor will draw on a participative action approach to research and narrative and appreciative inquiry pastoral counselling tools to serve clients. In this regard healing takes on a different form to that of a context where only individual interviews take place. Healing becomes a “shared story, co-created by the individual and the organization, based on a mutual sense of responsibility for the business, and promotes success as a whole” (Marc Kahn, 2014, in “Coaching on the Axis”).

Dill concluded his workshop by presenting a case study “Manufacturing of a Spiral Casing Product at DCD Heavy Engineering” in collaboration with the plant manager, Mr Nico Fourie (who explained the technical and the human challenges during the manufacturing process). Dill and Fourie outlined the nature of Dill’s interventions in the process and gave indication of positive results achieved after many months working on this challenging project.

This case study confirmed Dill’s earlier argument that the pastoral counsellor has an important role to play by being empirically close to people in the workplace, where they practice so-called lived religion. In addition, the pastoral counsellor can affirm workers’ self-worth and rekindle their hopes and dreams.