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Workplace Friendship and Anxiety: Organisational Insight through the Psychodynamic Exploration of Interpersonal Relations

Patey, Jana (2019) Workplace Friendship and Anxiety: Organisational Insight through the Psychodynamic Exploration of Interpersonal Relations. PhD thesis, University of Essex and University of Suffolk.

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Abstract

In response to the increasing loneliness in contemporary society, the UK Government has taken the agenda of the Jo Cox Commission seriously and employers are being urged to support intra-organisational relations (Marjoribanks, 2016). This reveals the need to build on the work of friendship scholars (Grey and Sturdy, 2007; Harding, 2013; Fritz, 2014; Rumens, 2017) who call for more critical empirical studies to appreciate workplace relations in all their emotional complexities. This thesis critically investigates the emotional dynamics arising in connection with workplace friendships within the context of organisational efforts to eradicate favouritism. In tracing the conscious and unconscious responses from the organisational to the interpersonal level, my main aim was to explore the emotional dynamics of experiencing these relations. In doing so I have also investigated if and how organisational processes and practices can exacerbate individuals’ psychic defensive apparatus surrounding these relations, resulting in affecting organisational identity as a whole. My research is based on a single case study of a non-profit organisation that uses a bureaucratic procedure to manage social relations. This is to prevent conflicts of interest arising from making decisions that might be considered biased. I use semi-structured qualitative interviews influenced by free association interviewing (Hollway and Jefferson, 2000), life story interviewing (Atkinson, 1998) and storytelling interviewing (Gabriel, 2000) to explore in-depth the workplace experiences of 30 organisational members, and to uncover collective defence mechanisms surrounding workplace friendship relations, following Menzies Lyth (1960). I also adopt concepts from the psychoanalytic school of Object Relations, notably transitional space (Winnicott, 1953; 1971), container-contained (Bion, 1962), and defence mechanisms (Klein, 1946) in combination with psychodynamic views of organisations to corroborate my empirical data. This thesis offers new insights into the unconscious side of workplace friendship relations and in doing so, it uncovers the organisational manipulation and control of emotionality that have been unconsciously cast in the ethical language of ‘defending’ against favouritism. It thus urges organisational practitioners to reflect on chosen ways to fight unethical behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychoanalysis, psycho-social research, workplace friendship, anxiety at work, social defence systems
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Centre for Work, Organisation and Society
Depositing User: Jana Patey
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2019 15:05
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2019 15:05
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25010

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