8 Chapters
Medium 9781782203544

Chapter Three - Death and Organisations

Kahn, Susan Karnac Books ePub

Death and organisations have been examined from a number of perspectives: trying to understand the notion of mortality in an organisational context takes us from genocide to suicide at work, from the death of a leader to the closure of a department. It encompasses grief and loss at work and parting ceremonies.

This chapter is structured in three parts. First, death and grief in organisations is explored, looking at models of loss in the first instance and including traditional models of mourning, such as that of Kubler-Ross (1969). Grief and loss at work are then given attention, including the death of a leader in the workplace and the impact of mergers and downsizing on the process of loss. Second the chapter examines extreme expressions of death at work through the subject of genocide as a brutal and efficient execution of murder at work; showing how it requires organisational skills and expertise to execute such dirty work. The third and final part of the chapter tackles the way in which organisations defend themselves against death: for example, through denial and greed.

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Chapter Seven - Defences at Work

Kahn, Susan Karnac Books ePub

Freud introduced the unconscious as a dynamic force, where unconscious phenomena are always trying to make themselves heard and felt (Freud, 1900a; Frosh, 2012). It is defence mechanisms that prevent the unconscious from appearing at all times; these mechanisms protect the individual from disturbing ideas entering conscious awareness. Defence mechanisms are also employed at an organisational level: repression is a useful tool to deny a crisis, projection can be directed to place failure into other, less achieving, organisations, and splitting can be used as a means of protecting the organisation from its less savoury aspects.

The vulnerability of this dying organisation generated profound defensive reactions from those within the institution. These defences were constructed in response to the unbearable anxiety of contemplating insecurity and their uncertain future. Defensive behaviour as a means of protecting oneself from anxieties that are too terrible to bear manifested itself in a variety of guises that are explored during this chapter.

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Chapter Five - Melancholia at Work

Kahn, Susan Karnac Books ePub

“The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment”

(Freud, 1917e, p. 244)

The melancholic organisation exhibits pathological responses to organisational death and is unable to cope with its ending. Its members, in addition to the painful symptoms of loss associated with mourning, are also encumbered with a depletion of self-esteem and a deep depression. The melancholic organisation goes beyond the anticipated response to death and incorporates the self at the centre of painful loss. Self-reproach and self-reviling are not present in mourning. In mourning, attacks are directed to the outside world, whereas in melancholia the attacks are directed inward, loss is harder to compute, and, rather than being worked through, are trapped inside and become a self-persecuting internal object.

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Chapter Two - Death and Psychoanalysis

Kahn, Susan Karnac Books ePub

The theoretical underpinning of this book is presented in this chapter through an exploration of death in psychoanalysis. Different psychoanalytic representations of loss, death, and endings are examined as a vehicle to further our understanding of organisational mortality. My emphasis will be on Freud and the fundamental place loss has in psychoanalytic literature, a place forced to one side by the popularisation of the erotic and the emphasis on love and desire. Psychoanalytic thought locates loss centrally: loss of the primal relationship, loss of memory, and denial of loss. This sense of loss has something to offer the world of work at a time of organisational ending. I present the challenge of confronting death and acknowledging the limitations of life. Freud's engagement with death in his writings on transience, war, and death are relevant here. War is important in any reflection on death: in war, one is confronted with the possibility of death from the outset; this is given attention and related to organisational death.

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Chapter Six - The Death Drive

Kahn, Susan Karnac Books ePub

This chapter explores the death drive and draws on the data gathered to explore the insights of Thanatos to understand organisational closure. It describes the death drive as a return to an earlier, inorganic state; it is also associated with violence, with a wish to cancel and to destroy. The chapter explains how the death drive operates in the closure of Interbank in all its vicissitudes. It compares the application of the death drive in the City of London with that in the international headquarters. The different expressions of the death drive, dissolution, and destruction are contrasted.

The death drive is expressed psychically in envy in the wish to take away something desirable that another person possesses. In the competitive environment of the City, envy, the desire to take away and destroy that which belongs to others, was seen to manifest itself (Klein, 1957). The compulsion to repeat mistakes in the world of finance and the cycle of boom and bust that epitomises the City of London is emphasised.

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