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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The CEOs Unconscious Conflicts About Dependency And Domination Shape Organizational Culture

The paper describes a flexible approach to organizational development that employs action research techniques based on organizational systems theory in conjunction with interventions based on psychoanalytic theory and methodology. I interweave methods for investigating the dynamics of individual managers with interventions aimed at changing the organizational culture. Strategies and the people engaged in the consulting process vary from week-to-week according to spontaneous shifts in focus between individual and group concerns and to my own judgment about the opportunities, imperatives, and constraints of the moment. I will present a case study which suggests that insight-oriented psychotherapy with the company owner contributed to significant improvements in the organization's culture, which changes were reflected both in immediate economic gains and in the assumed long-term strength of his company. My work with the client was governed by a still-evolving approach to leadership development of my own devising. The central concepts of this theory of leadership I call 'the 3 R's' - relationship, responsibility, and rationality. Although it is in no way evident (for good reason), the '3 R's' correspond indirectly with Lacanian concepts known as 'the desire of the Other,' the Law,' and 'the real.' I developed a vocabulary and system of ideas that are 'agreeable' and, with suitable diligence on the part of the client-intelligible, and useful to a population of successful business leaders. The business leaders I meet generally view 'psychoanalysis' with antipathy, which puts them at a disadvantage for optimizing their relationships with others members of the organization. Having a frame of reference that is psychoanalytic in intent, despite being dressed in everyday language, and intervening in ways that are (at least empirically) compatible with psychoanalytic thought opens avenues for these business leaders they might otherwise never consider.