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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Lost in Transition: The Use of Role Objects in Today

Based on Winnicott's theory of the transitional object and its essential role in the healthy development of infants and on contemporary organizational and immigrant studies, this paper examines the important potential function of 'role objects' in helping role holders in vast global organizations to manage the transitory, detaching qualities of their experience. The hypothesis of this paper is that in today's organizations role objects are primarily 'things' rather than meaningful objects that help contain losses during change. Contemporary working life is characterized by permanent transience and detachment from familiar workspaces and work objects. This paper explores in particular five different ways in which objects are used in contemporary organizational life that illustrate and illuminate the basic hypothesis of this paper. It closes with some suggested general guidelines.