An exploration of organisational conflicts and tensions from a depth psychology perspective:A case study

Paca, Esra (2019) An exploration of organisational conflicts and tensions from a depth psychology perspective:A case study. In: 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference, 2019-06-272019-06-29, Open University.

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The aim of this paper is to uncover patterns regarding how conflicts and tensions develop in a work organisation through an examination of values, relationships and language in the workplace from an analytical psychology perspective. In mainstream organisational studies, control and order are regarded as having a superior position to uncontrollable and disordering processes (Vásquez, et al., 2016), and for that reason the latter are seen as disruptive forces that need to be excluded from organisational life. It is acknowledged by Farjoun (2010) that there is a problem with this one-sidedness in organisations, specifically in the dualistic perspective towards opposing qualities like order/disorder, control/lack of control, direction/misdirection. The problem of one-sidedness was also an important concern for Carl Gustav Jung (1957/[1969]) both on the level of the individual and the organisations. This paper seeks to offer a Jungian perspective to the problem of one-sidedness and the simultaneous conflicts and tensions in organisations. When organisations focus on certain qualities associated with control and order, the complementary opposites, like uncontrollable processes, are excluded from organisational life through ignorance, denial, projection or other organisational defence mechanisms (Menzies Lyth, 1960). However, they do not cease to exist. On the contrary, trying to exclude them through use of defence mechanisms can have destructive effects on the organisation in the long run. Drawing on empirical material from a qualitative case-study, I show that attempts to bring order to workplace structures and processes in line with organisational objectives in fact contribute to the creation of conflicts and tensions. I collected data through fieldwork in a case-organisation, spending four months on the company premises as a participant observer. I interviewed 27 employees of the organisation and 3 of its ex-managers, and reviewed magazines and articles from 2000-2017 that included information about the organisation. The data reveal that the company underwent a transformation from a small family business where strong family values prevailed, to a large holding company whose structures were shaped by its growth objectives in accordance with the neoliberal market conditions; this seemed to create conflicts and tensions in the company which were left unaddressed. They are usually excluded from the organisational life through defence mechanisms embedded in the organisation’s structures and processes. Trying to resolve the conflicts and tensions through its old mentality by attempting to increase control and order only resulted in escalating conflicts and tensions, and as a result, the organisation seems to be stuck and cannot advance further. This article suggests that, the conscious recognition and integration of conflicts and tensions would allow the appreciation of the complex and dynamic nature of organisations and achievement of growth-oriented objectives without incurring a cost that would potentially affect the organisation in the long term. Instead of seeing conflicts and tensions as dysfunctions, a depth-psychology lens enables to see them as carrying potential creative insights that could enrich the organisational life. Drawing upon a depth-psychology perspective, this study contributes to organisational studies with a more comprehensive understanding of organisational conflicts and tensions.

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Contribution to Conference (Paper)
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11th International Critical Management Studies Conference
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06 Nov 2019 11:20
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 14:41