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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Managerial Couple: The Superior-Subordinate Relationship as a Unit of Analysis

The superior-subordinate relationship (called the 'managerial couple' in this article) is pervasive in hierarchical organizations and essential to their effectiveness. Through this primary interpersonal link, the delegation of work the division of labor, and accountability are all realized. Together, both members of the managerial couple must accomplish a job, but neither can control that job individually. Therefore, each must trust the other while coping with feelings of dependence on the other. The extent to which each relies on the other and can be let down by the other often touches upon deep-seated anxieties. Managerial couples in work organizations take on a life of their own, replete with shared fantasies, hopes and disappointments, collaborative dialogue, and collusive, defensive patterns. On one end of a continuum is the productive creative evolving and mutually stimulating couple. On the other is the rigid stalemated sometimes mutually punishing relationship characterized by excessive conflict numbing detachment or debilitating dependency.'