Organizations and their Discontents

A Psychoanalytic Contribution to the Study of Organizational Culture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Sigmund Freud's model of dream interpretation provides a useful starting point for the study of organizational myths and symbols-viewing these as manifestations of the shared unconscious wishes of organization members that find expression in distorted form. This article examines why individuals in organizations frequently espouse and sustain myths, with little regard for their truth or accuracy. Through a detailed account of one particular organizational myth, the article proposes that culture, embodied in myths and stories, infuses life in organizations with meaning for organizational members and also provides members a legitimate outlet for emotion and protective armor against misfortune and suffering. Organizational culture thus offers organization members a symbolic mechanism for turning passivity into activity, powerlessness into control, and for making organizational life bearable or even enjoyable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-336
Number of pages19
JournalThe Journal of Applied Behavioral Science
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

Cite this

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abstract = "Sigmund Freud's model of dream interpretation provides a useful starting point for the study of organizational myths and symbols-viewing these as manifestations of the shared unconscious wishes of organization members that find expression in distorted form. This article examines why individuals in organizations frequently espouse and sustain myths, with little regard for their truth or accuracy. Through a detailed account of one particular organizational myth, the article proposes that culture, embodied in myths and stories, infuses life in organizations with meaning for organizational members and also provides members a legitimate outlet for emotion and protective armor against misfortune and suffering. Organizational culture thus offers organization members a symbolic mechanism for turning passivity into activity, powerlessness into control, and for making organizational life bearable or even enjoyable.",
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