Existentialism and Consulting

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November 19, 2012 by manishameena

By Manisha Meena, MSc in Management Consulting 3 student

You are there where you are because you chose to be there…

I believe life is the outcome of choices that we make and the line above reflects this belief. This is essentially the core of existentialism- a school of thought that came into existence after the Second World War. Existentialism became popular during the times of despair after the Second World War and The Great Depression. It is a philosophy that emphasizes on individual existence, freedom and choice.  This idea of free will, choice and responsibility has been incorporated beautifully in Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’. According to Kafka, we all have an ultimate power to make choices and the choices that we make govern our lives. People have two sides to themselves-the individual one and the social one. If we focus too much on the individual side then we lose our value in the society and when we focus too much on the society, then we lose our value as an individual. In order to have a fulfilling life, we need to find a balance between these two sides.

The life of a consultant is very demanding. We are viewed as someone who is objective, intelligent and always on the move. The human side of consultants often takes a back seat and we are viewed as performing assets for our organizations. The ‘flexible’ work hours does not allow a consultant to have a normal social life. This disruption of routine can lead to stress and anxiety.  Consultants are called in to solve problems and most of the times these problems are ‘people related’. Employees in an organization are usually wary of consultants as they are perceived as disruptive agents. We need to constantly put in efforts to win the support and cooperation of the people involved. This constant resistance also adds to the stress in a consultant’s life.

As consultants, we learn from existentialism that:

a)        It is important for our well being that we maintain a balance between work and leisure.

b)       We need to take responsibility for our decisions and be accountable for them.

c)        Decisions have their consequences and can lead to stress

d)       Personal responsibility and discipline are important

e)        Live life in an authentic manner

Consultants can overcome the problem of stress by making a conscious decision to maintain a work-life balance. We can win the confidence of our clients by incorporating the concept of authenticity and by adopting a collaborative approach. Existentialists have maintained that if individuals do not live their authentically, then they lose meaning and fall into the trap of boredom, despair and anxiety.

Being authentic is important for achieving meaning and happiness in our work life. This can be done by being completely honest and focusing on the task at hand. We need to be in sync with our own values and principles. Living life in an authentic manner gives us a feeling of being complete and also gives our lives a sense of purpose.

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