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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Dead Man Talking - The Researcher in a Dying Institution

In this research led paper I explore Freudian notions of death in the context of a financial institution destined to closure. Drawing on data from an 18 month long study I develop a framework of engagement with organizational death. The paper addresses the way in which people find meaning in their work when that work is destined to death. The crushing reality of an uncertain future and a palliative work state are examined. The paper draws on Freude's death work, the death drive (Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1920) and his seminal writing on mourning and melancholia (Mourning & Melancholia, 1917). The author presents the role of the researcher in an environment when work is fragile and vulnerability is close to the surface. Drawing a parallel between psychoanalytic research on the boundary of Organizational Psychology and the researcher's role at the boundary of the institution, the paper further explores the role of the researcher feeding on the experience of suffering and endings in the workplace. The paper contributes a research led voice to the experience of work in the fallout of the financial crisis and addresses the conference themes by shedding light on an organization without a future.