The Psychodynamic Study of Organizations

Updated: Jun 21

The Past

How do we normally see/think of an organization?

Through the lenses of vision, strategy, structure, roles, resources, and objectives among several others. The human is one more resource that needs to be managed through behavioural modification, effected using rewards and punishments. This worked well when what the organization produced was a tangible product within and through well-defined processes. That was when the organization was thought of as a machine. One that could be dealt with, to be more efficient and productive, through rational means. #organisations #onlinecourse #learning #course #learning #studyoforganisations #behavioural


Much has changed since then. There are so many more metaphors to describe the organization:

  • As an Exchange Regulator, seen as a control mechanism that can handle complex exchange relations.

  • As a Compass draws attention to the direction-pointing capacity of the shared value system.

  • As a holding Container for anxieties through which the uncertainties of life can be tolerated and faced.

  • As Social Glue that imagines organizations are integrated and controlled through informal, non-structural means – shared values, beliefs, understandings, and norms. #metaphors #anxieties #understanding

The one aspect that stands out through most of them is the human has come to the centre and fore. Even for the production line organizations, like car companies, the product has taken a back seat to the overlay of services and the human touch. Now it is all about the employee, relationships, empathy, and building trust.

Emotions as the Foundation for Insight

The Human is not merely a rational entity like Spock from Star Trek. Instead, he is primarily a bundle of emotions - of anxieties, fears, needs, and desires. And the organization, as a collection of humans, too is not merely an entity that can be studied objectively like an organism under a microscope but has to be felt, experienced for true understanding to emerge.

The Psychodynamic study of an organization aims at understanding the dynamics within the psyche, the subjective, the emotional, and the Unconscious - that which is not immediately within our awareness or consciousness but yet affects our behaviour. Much like gravity which you cannot see but can yet feel the effect of. This perspective is focused on the emotional relationship between the organization and the person and how that affects both entities. Psychodynamics studies both conscious and unconscious anxieties, the defences used to ward them off, and how identity, power, and authority play out and impact the organizational space.

Understanding of this nature has several outcomes:

  • It creates a space in which reflexivity can exist and from which meaningful insights, as opposed to knee jerk reactions, emerge into challenges faced at both the individual and the organizational level.

  • It enables the understanding of the situation using self-awareness.

  • It helps to focus on the fundamental task of the organization and the effective participation and collaboration of roles towards it.

  • It enables managers to understand the developmental needs of their team members.

  • It enables the understanding and resolution of conflicts.


A rational perspective of the human or the organization is no longer enough. We now need to also consider and pay attention to everything that makes us and what we create human. And what drives us is our emotions. It is time to find a balance between the mind and the heart, between the objective and the subjective. If we want to survive and thrive and not become anxious nail-biting burnouts.

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