Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Keeping the lights on safety Applied research into workplace safety in a large energy company - a successful systems psychodynamic intervention.

Our research investigates Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) cultural maturity within differing segments of a large, integrated energy company in Australia. In particular, we investigate 'making the workplace safer' in the experience of a range of role-holders within the organisation. The paper will describe a methodology for conducting research that uses both systems psychodynamic and mainstream organisational psychology lenses. The research adopts a mixed method approach that integrates data from multiple sources in order to align on an overall 'assessment' through the lens of a theoretical safety culture maturity model and offers hypothesises from systems psychodynamic principles. The research methods we used include: a safety climate survey (psychometric tool) structured interviews semi-structured focus groups HSE Auditor findings Action Research researcher observations and our experiences as 'Insider Researchers'. As internal organisational development consultants, we have developed a methodology that has successfully translated systems psychodynamic concepts and application into a framework that is accessible for the senior leaders in the organisation and can be worked with in tangible ways (i.e. through explicit structures such as role delineation, statements of purpose and strategic plans). We will outline how our methodology has helped our organisation to transform reporting examples of things that have changed (e.g., progressive ownership of HSE at operational levels, competency frameworks for HSE). Our paper will contribute to a systems psychodynamic understanding of, and intervention in, organisational toxicity and health by (a) presenting the marriage of systems psychodynamic principles and traditional organisational psychology research approaches, (b) discussing the organisational challenges that emerged during the research, and (c) discussion of the way the organisation incorporated the outcomes of this research into their ongoing workplace safety practices. The paper provides an in-depth explanation of the methodology we have developed to mitigate toxic emotions surrounding organisational health and safety. It is directed toward practitioners who practice in the field of systems psychodynamic consulting to organisations and who may struggle to successfully integrate this type of practice with mainstream organisational 'problem solving' and decision making.