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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021


Parallel Papers Session 3
Saturday 6 July 11.00am-12.15, EEST
Paper Code: PP2

Psychoanalytically informed exploration of the evolving role of Organisations in the post pandemic world

Presenters: Akansha Arora & Fiona Martin

In 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic some organisations extended their idea of employee care in entirely new ways. In 2021 the ‘great resignation’ and the ‘great rethink’ emerged (Gulati, 2022). Early insights suggest that below the surface of these events there is a search by staff for greater meaning in their work lives (Turner, 2023). In 2022 we have seen some organisations expand the range of ways in which they engage with staff and their focus on ‘wellbeing’ (Sutton, 2022). This paper explores for meaning in the observed phenomena of the ‘great resignation,’ ‘great re-think’ and organisational responses to staff in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is but one element of the climate crisis. Equally, the COVID-19 pandemic can be considered as a tipping point that opened Pandora's box of deeply disturbing experiences, including the global climate crisis and the threat of annihilation; the breakdown of institutional containers including the perceived failure of democracy and government institutions; the aftermath of colonisation including mass immigration triggering xenophobia; Neoliberalism fuelling intolerance and othering; and an ever-increasing economic divide within nations and between the global north and south, brought about by corporations feasting on globalisation.

When we look at some of the data, we see workers are shifting from identifying self with success in organisation structures to prioritising satisfaction with the whole of the life they live (Turner, 2023). This includes connection with some kind of source, spirituality, meaning, and reconnection with earth and nature. This shift is impacting organisations’ ability to attract and retain workers.

We ask, is there a trajectory of behavioural change in organisations underway as well? Are these changes triggered by some anxieties or are these changes about organisations and institutions taking up new roles and tasks? Are the changes enough to be able to attract and hold workers? Are humans and organisations reconceiving their world from ordered hierarchy to interconnected, interdependent, networked, dynamic and unstable?

Our paper seeks to offer an opportunity to explore the dimensions of the drivers that may be triggering worker discontent and proposition some thoughts about how organizations could provide a more desirable workplace. We also consider the question of the role of the individual, the organisation, and social institutions in locating forms of containment for the individuals’ experiences of discontent. To support our journey of wondering and exploration we have taken a systems psychodynamic view including using the Transforming Experience Framework (Long, The Transforming experience framework).

Biographical Summaries

Akansha Arora

Akansha is an organisational consultant and researcher. A growing appreciation of the psychoanalytic perspective led her to pursue her Professional Doctorate from Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, London. Her current research interest is in exploring the roles middle managers take up during large scale change. As a consultant and a coach she is passionate about helping organizations, particularly in the small and medium enterprise space find ways to integrate conscious and unconscious processes while managing change. Akansha is also a passionate advocate and serves on the board of a not-for-profit organisation focused on vulnerable youth and children in India.

Fiona Martin

Fiona Martin is an organisational consultant, coach, and researcher. Her research interest is the impact of disruptive environments including climate change, on leadership, management, and group dynamics especially in relation to the capacity of organisations to remain focused on purpose and their ability to learn from their experiences. Her current research is into barriers and enablers to research utilisation, organisational learning, and animal-human relations. Her findings have practical application for the understanding of group dynamics in contemporary organisations. She has authored and co-authored academic papers, is a research associate of NIODA, a member of the Editorial Board of Socioanalysis, a Director of Group Relations Australia and a member of the organising commitee of the NIODA Symposium 2017-22.


Chenoweth, E., Choi-Fitzpatrick, A., Pressman, J., Santos, F. G., and Ulfelder, J., 2020. The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing, The Guardian, UK. global-pandemic-has-spawned-new-forms-of-activism-and-theyre-flourishing

Gulati, R., 2022. The Great Resignation or the Great Rethink, Harvard Business Review, New York, USA. The Great Resignation or the Great Rethink?

Long, S., 2018. The transforming experience framework. In Transforming Experience in Organisations (pp. 1-14). Routledge.

Sutton, J., 2022. Understanding the Great Resignation in Australia, The Access Group, UK.

Turner, J., 2023. Employees Seek Personal Value and Purpose at Work. Be Prepared to Deliver. Gartner.