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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Merger as an Emigration: Towards the Psychology of Organisational Mergers

In this paper the process of organisational merger is compared to the process of emigration from one country to another. This metaphor enables us to construe an organisational merger as an inter-group experience. The interaction between the outsiders and the insiders, the immigrants and the indigenous population allows us to tract the destructive as well as the more creative elements of this complex process. References will be made to the stages of emigration as a framework for understanding the stages of adaptation to the new culture in organisational merger. The five stages of: contemplation of emigration, preparation for leaving the country, the journey, the arrival and the adjustment period are compared and contrasted with five stages in the organisational life-cycle in relation to the merger process such as: contemplating merger, preparation for leaving your organisation, the 'shadow period', the 'parallel period', and the 'integration period'. Written from the perspective of the individual and a group of 'emigrants/employees' the paper examines the psychological tasks that need to be addressed, completed and resolved by those subjected to this process. Main themes that need to be managed by individuals and the organisations in relation to these five stages are also identified and discussed in relation to the emigration and the merger alike. The Kleinian concept of 'a hostile attack' will be examined in relation to the unconscious ways in which the 'indigenous population' is often involved in attacking the tradition, learning, relationships and leadership of the 'new comers' (Mark Stein, 2000) whilst remaining unaware of what impact their action can have on others. It will be postulated that this lack of insight on part of the 'indigenous population' can be explained by the fact that the attack is being performed as if 'in the service of' creating a new reality and therefore carries with it the organisational and management sanction and stands for progress. This in turn casts the 'new comers' in the role of 'progress-resisters' and can lead to loss of organisational role valorisation, low morale and feeling that what they stood for and represented in the old social order is worthless and has no meaning in the new social order. The paper will also examine the potential contribution that other psychoanalytic writers such as Bion and Winnicott can make to deepen our understanding of the pain involved in organisational mergers. Finally, question will be posed whether it is possible to achieve a balance between destructiveness and creativity once an organisation embarks on a process of merger. For a full copy of the paper, please email