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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Bricks Without Mortar: The Decline of Sentience in Global Oranizations

Much has been written about the confluence of many powerful forces that have contributed to shaping organizational life. Among the most commonly cited are: globalization; new, unfamiliar markets requiring the ability to work across ethnic, cultural and linguistic boundaries; the flattening of organizational structures, as an alternative to hierarchical forms of power, authority and influence, necessitating more collaborative, influence-based models of work; matrix forms of work design and the multiple reporting relationships they require; constant restructurings, manifested in shifting relationships with colleagues and managers; and the increasingly common creation of virtual groups and teams to manage the work in dispersed, decentralized organizations. Few of these factors, separately or taken in combination, offer more than a descriptive framework for understanding the dilemmas of a great many contemporary organizations. Our aim in this paper is to provide a working hypothesis and supporting case material which draws explanatory links between the factors, and what we hypothesize as the emergence of paranoid/schizoid organizational cultures as the norm, with their corresponding dysfunctional features. Our hypothesis is that the factors noted above have a common theme - namely, the rise of relatedness and the decline of relationships. Building on this notion, we attempt to show that this phenomenon accounts for paranoid/schizoid organizational environments. Relationships, with the reality of connection they provide, for better or worse, tend to facilitate the creation of a sentient culture of cohesiveness, gratification and reality testing, via the ordinary feedback of interpersonal commerce. By contrast, as a result of the factors noted, a culture of relationship no longer characterizes dominant forms of work collaboration in many especially global - organizations. Rather, relatedness (relationships-in-the-mind, not modulated by direct face-to face contact) often dominates the interpersonal landscape, providing a fertile ground for persecutory fantasies, both conscious and unconscious.