Psychological Dimensions of Organisational Life
Many writers have explored the psychological aspects of organisational life, using a variety of perspectives. Although I have listed some resources under three different sections, psychodynamic, gestalt and Jungian, many authors use concepts from two or more approaches.
The psychodynamic perspective is especially associated with the writings of Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion and the work of the Tavistock Institute in England. David Armstrong's Making Absences Present: The Contribution of W. R. Bion to Understanding Unconscious Social Phenomena offers some background to Bion's work.
Larry Hirschhorn is one of the foremost proponents of a psychodynamic approach to life in organisation. His The Psychodynamics of Organizations jointly edited with Carole Barnett (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993) and The Workplace Within: Psychodynamics of Organizational Life are good introductions to this field.
Jean Hutton and Bruce Reed at the Grubb Institute also use psychodynamic perspectives.
My own Anxiety & Incompetence in the Large Group explores some aspects of organisation from a psychodynamic perspective.
The Orgdyne group is a discussion group devoted to the application of psychodynamic approaches to organisations. It also has a small archive of relevant articles available for download.
The Journal of Psycho-Social Studies is an online, freely accessible journal which contains some articles of relevance to organisational studies.
Gestalt is an approach developed especially by Fritz Perls, who famously urged us to, "Lose your mind and come to your senses." Modern exponents include Bill Critchley whose "A Gestalt Approach to Organisational Consulting" in Developing Organisational Consultancy is a useful introduction. Trevor Bentley's A Touch of Magic is also worth reading.
The Gestalt Review carries a number of articles on Gestalt and Organisations. Some are available online:
Organizational Consulting: What a Gestalt Approach Can Learn from Off-Off-Broadway Theater by Raymond Saner takes a look at the way a gestalt-based approach can mesh with insights from the performing arts.
Generational Conflict: A New Paradigm for Teams of the 21st Century by H. B. Karp & Danilo Sirias looks at the different attitudes to team working held by Baby Boomers and Generation Xers and suggests a gestalt-based approach to teams which will accord more closely with the attitudes of the younger generation.
Gestalt in the Boardroom: Corporate Boards as Intimate Systems by Trevor Bentley describes how a Gestalt approach to working with corporate boards as "intimate systems" can greatly improve relationships and enable directors to operate with greater authenticity and clarity.
Managing Polities: An Interview with Barry Johnson by Rick Maurer explores the way Johnson's notion of Polarity Management fits with his Gestalt training.
Perhaps the best-known Jungian contribution to organisational work is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There is a vast literature on this test which is supposedly derived from Jung's work, especially his Psychological Types. For instance, Type Times is a regular web-based newsletter from Canada. The C. G.Jung Page has a vast amount of material, both introductory and more advanced, about Jung and his theories.
However, there is more to the Jungian approach to organisations than Myers-Briggs. The role of archtypes, the importance of the shadow side and other key Jungian concepts have been important in developing Jungian approaches to organisational life.
Gary Gemmil developed the notion that groups have or develop a 'group shadow' analogous to Jung's notion of the individual's shadow personality (Jung, Carl 1970, “After the Catastrophe,” in Collected Works, vol. 10., New York: Ballinger) . He has applied this idea to intergroup relations and scapegoating in organisations. A number of Gary Gemmill's articles are available from the internet: The Dynamics of the Group Shadow in Intergroup Relations, Managing the Dynamics of "Having Nothing to Say" in Small Groups, Mirror, Mask, and Shadow: Psychodynamic Aspects of Intergroup Relations and The Dynamics of Scapegoating in Small Groups are all available as free downloads from the Handley Group of which Gemmill is a partner. Gemmill's Leadership in the Shadow of '9/11' explores the myth of leadership in the wake of the shadow cast by the World Trade Centre attacks.
Dean Robb's doctoral dissertation, "Building Organizational Resilience: Creating Double Loop Organizational Learning through the Application of a Jungian Systems Theory" is also available. Robb's abstract notes that the model he developed, "apprehends life as an ongoing, fundamentally creative/developmental process of learning, change, transformation and renewal, symbolized in the archetype of the Birth-Death-Rebirth Cycle. This life process, if embraced and managed appropriately, yields: 1) the unfolding and development of latent systemic and individual potentials, and 2) a succession of reinvigorated and increasingly capable, creative and adaptable (i.e., increasingly resilient) system-environment evolutionary balances (equilibria). Resistance to the life process yields lowered performance, creativity and flexibility, increasing stagnation and dysfunction, and possibly to early death. Over against traditional notions of “organization,” the model proposes a resilient human system as a co-individuating, conscious community with a co-owned purpose or task responsibility."
"The findings and discussion suggest the critical importance of several interwoven concepts and practices for building truly resilient human systems. Leaders and managers must:
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