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Organizations on the couch: a clinical perspective on organizational dynamics

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In this article the argument is made that unconscious dynamics have a significant impact on life in organizations. In support of that argument, the salient aspects of the clinical paradigm are introduced, motivational need systems are explored, and observations are made about the role of core conflictual relationship themes in understanding behavior. The psychodynamics of leadership are discussed, including the role of narcissism, transferential patterns, and the Monte Cristo complex. Other themes reviewed include collusive superior-subordinate relationships (such as identification with the aggressor and folie à deux) and the psychodynamics of groups (including regressive patterns such as fight-flight, dependency, and pairing behavior). The concept of social defenses-that is, a system of relationships (reflected in the organizational or social structure) constructed to help people deal with persecutory and depressive anxiety-is introduced. This discussion is followed by a description of the characteristics of neurotic organizations. Five "ideal" types of such organizations are identified: the dramatic/cyclothymic, suspicious, compulsive, detached and depressive organizations. Subsequently, the benefits of the clinical approach to organizational consultation and intervention are explored. Finally, a plea is made for the creation of "authentizotic" organizations-organizations in which people feel truly alive.

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