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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Exploring the Meaning of Work in the Context of Organizational Culture

The aim of this paper is to show that taking a group-as-a-whole approach, encompassing organizational culture, enables us to gain a different understanding of the meaning of work: one which is significantly different from an approach which takes the individual as the object of study. Most of us accept that organizational and societal cultures exist and that they play an important and vital part in our lives but have but a vague understanding of this phenomenon. Other parts of the social sciences such as anthropology and sociology tend to base their object of study on patterns of social behaviour and do not recognise that individuals and psychology are also involved in the processes of culture. This has led to a situation where we have been more concerned with identifying the symptoms of a culture rather than understanding what it is. This is also true of psychology which tends to focus on individuals and thus ignores the social aspects of groups. It would seem that this is rich territory for the psycho-dynamically minded, yet, from Freud onwards; both organizational & societal cultures have been largely ignored by those taking a systems psychodynamic approach. Consequently, as a means of locating the approach and theory applied the paper will commence with an explanation and analysis of culture. This will include an exploration of the way that societal culture cannot be divorced from organisational culture by reference to the 'enculturation' (social, psychological and emotional) of the growing child in the maternal holding environment; and then moving on to the notion of taking multiple identities and 'enculturation' in various other holding environments throughout life (including organisational holding environments). Most importantly the paper will seek to answer the fundamental questions: how does culture develop? Why do we develop a culture? And what is the purpose of a culture? The explanation offered is based on a working hypothesis that the object that was the mother who was the object that we first relied upon for the provision of consistency, continuity and confirmation, gradually evolves and in adult life becomes the object that we refer to as organisational (or societal) culture which is now experienced as the object that we rely upon for our consistency, continuity and confirmation.'