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4: Diversity and authority conferences as a social defence

Laurence J Gould Karnac Books ePub

Debra A. Noumair

At the time I was writing this chapter, the then President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was under a cloud of charges of sexual harassment, sodomy, and adultery. These charges were brought forward by women with whom the President worked and, as such, invited us into the organizational life of the government. While I do not purport to provide an analysis of American political events at that time, I do view the interrogation of a white male in a position of authority doing what men (of all races) have been doing for centuries as noteworthy in the context of this work on diversity and authority.

This chapter is a case study of an organization in which corruption of the task occurs at the intersection of sex, race, and authority, similar in location to that of the presidential investigation. For some subgroups in the United States, the more compelling concern surrounding the president is whether, through commission or omission, he participated in the obstruction of justice, not his sexual practices. For others, it is surveillance (Fine, 1997) of the highest authority figure in the country that is problematic; the kind of scrutiny that the president underwent is usually reserved for “others” in society—people of colour, gays and lesbians, and so forth (Morrison, 1992; Sampson, 1993). Surveillance of a white man, particularly around the abuse of power, could result in disrupting the status quo, in subverting authority relations as we know them. As long as our gaze remains averted from whites and focused on “others”, truth remains hidden and unavailable for examination (Powell, 1997). This is true throughout organizational life and may be one of the factors that contribute to a lack of rigor in work on diversity in organizations. If we were to uncover the irrational and unconscious aspects of diversity and authority in organizational life, as group relations methods invite us to, we may have to face the consequences of disrupted authority relations and knowing truths that we do not wish to know.

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1: “The 'Leicester' model” revisited

Laurence J Gould Karnac Books ePub

Eric J. Miller

The “Leicester conference” is an intensive two-week residential event devoted to experiential learning about group and organizational behaviour. Its purpose is educational. The first conference in 1957 was a collaborative venture of the Tavistock Institute and Leicester University, where it had strong support from the professors of adult education and sociology. That joint sponsorship continued for several years, until their retirement. Since that beginning, the conference has been held once and sometimes twice a year, and with two or three early exceptions it has always been at Leicester—hence the label.

In the first conference (Trist R Sofer, 1959) the only experiential event was the “study group” of about 12 members with a consultant; the rest of the programme was made up of lectures, seminars, and visits to organizations. The year 1959 brought the addition of an intergroup exercise (Higgin R Bridger, 1964), in which I was a rather bewildered consultant attending my first conference. This was followed in the early 1960s by the large group and a second version of this inter-group which involved the “here-and-now” study of relations between the membership and staff (Rice, 1965). Lectures were phased out; apart from review and application groups, all events were experiential. By the end of the 1960s the “Leicester model” of today was becoming crystallized; innovations since have been minor or temporary. By then, too, the model was being disseminated, particularly in the United States. These were shorter conferences—typically a week, or even just a weekend. Leicester itself remained (and remains) the only two-week conference, bringing together an increasingly international membership of, usually, 50–70 people drawn from a wide range of occupations, with a similarly diverse group of around 12 staff.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Is recognition a prerequisite for citizenship for managers?

Karnac Books ePub

Maryse Dubouloy

Sociologists and psycho-sociologists have warned us that the contemporary individual suffers from a lack of recognition. We were, therefore, not surprised when these ideas turned out be recurrent themes in the interviews we performed to understand the notion of “difficulty” experienced by French1 business managers that is so often used and so little defined. It became clear to us that this was not

a marginal demand on the part of workers. On the contrary, recognition appears to be a decisive factor in the process of subjective mobilization of intelligence and personality in the workplace (in classical psychology the term is work motivation). [Dejours, 1998, p. 40]

This recognition is, thus, both a challenge and an essential dynamic for the individual and the organization. It quickly becomes apparent that this lack of recognition is the source of real suffering, resulting from solitude, feelings of powerlessness, and progressive withdrawal into the self. It ends with their disengagement from the business as well as the larger world. In fact, it seems as though most executives we met were in a state of profound dependence on the gaze of the other on both their work and themselves. It seems that most people interviewed (note that, for this study, we met only with executives who self-identified as being in difficulty) do not work in environments that give them access to the process of recognition necessary to achieve self-recognition and then go beyond that to become “social subjects” and reflexive citizens. The “social subject” is the result of a subjectivation process. It can be defined as desiring subjects aware of themselves and others, who take responsibility for themselves and others, and are able to influence their own life, the lives of others, of organizations, and of society.

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7. A Large-System Intervention: The Influence of Organisational Culture

Karnac Books ePub

7

LIONEL F. STAPLEY

The aims of this chapter are to examine the influence of organisational culture; to identify some of the problems that it creates for those working in organisations; and to demonstrate a practical means of analysing this elusive phenomenon. The approach taken will be to outline the theory and then apply it to a large-system intervention in a health-care organisation as a means of showing how that knowledge can be helpful—even essential—in providing the desired understanding necessary to guide our consultation efforts.

Whenever we think of large-system interventions it inevitably means not only looking at the way that individuals and groups relate to each other, but more especially the way they relate to the organisation itself. It also requires an understanding of the way that processes in society affect the dynamics of the organisation. Part of our analysis must, therefore, be concerned with the prickly and troublesome problems associated with organisational culture.

Organisational culture has a significant influence on the dynamics of an organisation, and it is well-recognised and accepted that any change within an organisation will be affected by the organisational culture. Ignorance of the organisational culture or, worse still, attempts to deliberately work against it will render change exceedingly difficult and perhaps impossible. And, even where we are not seeking to influence the organisational culture per se, it will still be important that we understand and work with the culture if we are to have the best possible chance of achieving desired change. This is more especially the case when it comes to large-system interventions where the organisational culture will have a considerable impact on the dynamics under review.

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3. An Organization Looks at Itself: Psychoanalytic and Group Relations Perspectives on Facilitating Organizational Transition Rina

Karnac Books ePub

3

RINA BAR-LEV ELIELI

The need to stop for reflection and review with the purpose of gaining better understanding is not often recognized by organizations in the process of transition. Being in a process of transition, in itself, creates an atmosphere of moving rather than of holding or stopping. The notion of movement, transition, change, and shift is not compatible with the notion of stopping, taking a break, reflecting, and reviewing, even though whenever we think about “transition” and “change” the idea of resistance to change comes to mind.

We could say that in the “unconscious mind” of the organization, in the minds of those whose role it is to facilitate action in order to make things happen, transitions are related mainly to outside reality, while reflecting and reviewing is related mainly to internal reality. It is hard to conceive that both facilitating action and reflecting can relate to the external and the internal reality at the same time. It is often difficult to remember that institutions of all kinds leave their marks on the internal as well as external reality of individuals and organizations alike.

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