The Social Psychology of Organizations: Diagnosing Toxicity and Intervening in the Workplace, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Social Psychology of Organizations

Diagnosing Toxicity and Intervening in the Workplace, 1st Edition

By Joanna Wilde


224 pages

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Healthy and successful organizations require the people who work within them to be happy, resilient and creative. Just as a human body is undermined if it suffers from sickness, so an organization can only function fully if the people who work within it feel engagement and well-being, and any toxic influences which shape or burden their working lives are resolved

This important new title provides a much-needed overview not only of what it means for an organization to be weakened by pervasive psychological influences within the working environment, but also how this dysfunction can be addressed through psychological interventions. The book is split into three core sections:

  • Toxicity and Dysfunction in the workplace, outlining structural, behavioural, emotional and cognitive sources of toxicity that undermine organizations
  • Principles of the healthy workplace, outlining core concepts of belonging, contribution and meaning from which organizations in turn benefit
  • Creating the healthy workplace, outlining a range of approaches to addressing organizational toxicity, including design thinking, positive psychology, and evidence-based approaches.

Written by a practicing organizational psychologist, and including case studies to illustrate how toxicity at the micro level can impact upon wider organizational goals, the book draws on a wide range of literature to provide an accessible, focussed understanding of how the individual psychological experiences of working people can have wider consequences for an organization, and how interventions within that process can address these issues. It is ideal reading for students and researchers of occupational or organizational psychology, organizational behaviour, business and management and HRM.


"The business world has been beset by a wave of scandals and ethical failures impacting sustainability. People and development professionals need a much more granular understanding of the culture of organizations to aid their interventions. Chock full of tools, models and practical exercises this is an essential new addition to the armoury of the reflective and rigourous practitioner who wants results and impact which serves all stakeholders." Dr John McGurk, Head of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Scotland and N. Ireland

"Nobody sets out to create a toxic organization - and yet they proliferate. Joanna Wilde is incisive in her examination of the causes and the symptoms of contemporary workplace ills and expert at showing the way towards antidotes. Her clinical insight is deepened by her appreciation of the underlying beliefs that have led good people to build monstrous organizations. Anyone who wants to understand why our workplaces don’t work, anyone who wants to recreate the joy and fulfilment which work can deliver, should read this book now - before it’s too late" Margaret Heffernan, CEO, Author Wilful Blindness

"Analytical, thought-provoking and original. Joanna Wilde brings a wonderfully fresh perspective to everything she examines and opens our eyes to new possibilities" Professor Binna Kandola OBE, Managing Partner Pearn Kandola Psychologists, UK

"This book puts the emphasis firmly back on understanding human beings in organization. Building on her deep insights from practice, and through knowledge of scientific psychosocial research, Joanna Wilde offers a compelling and practical approach to understanding the organization. Through her ‘Intelligent Activism’, she shows how better, and far healthier organizations can be developed, by applying a more effective approach to interventions. Her book takes psychosocial understandings to show why traditional change programmes are more likely fail, but more importantly breach trust and create toxic workplaces" Professor Rosalind Searle, Coventry University, UK

"We live in a time of increasing work place pressure and a rising tide of mental illness. Joanna Wilde clearly argues that we need social psychology professionals who are committed to "intelligent activism", translating complex knowledge from multiple disciplines to work pragmatically in partnership with clients to address their wicked problems. Joanna shows the importance of this work being based on ethical purpose: "to help shape relationships and communities for the better" and a disciplined ethical practice, including contracting and supervision. I hope many professionals and organizations benefit from her generously shared experience." Professor Peter Hawkins Emeritus Chair of Bath Consulting Group and Henley Business School, UK

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. Introduction Part 1: Doing Intelligent Activism: The New Social Psychology of Organizations 1. Knowledge translation for complex workplaces. 2. Understanding Client Engagement Dynamics 3. Ideas of intervention and change in organizations 4. Evidence and intervention methods as tools for practice 5. Ethical issues in practice Part 2: Building an integrated model of organizational toxicity 6. What we know about Organizational Toxicity 7. The macro sources of toxicity in organizations 8. Psychosocial micro-processes that Mitigate or Maximize Toxicity in the Workplace Part 3: Learning from Practice to intervene in toxic organizations 9. Diagnostic themes for examining the psychological environment 10. How current performance management systems make workplaces toxic 11. Re-Designing belonging dynamics for an interconnected world of work 12. Measurement, silence and the mechanisms of compliance Conclusion.

About the Author

Dr Joanna Wilde has over 25 years’ evidence-based professional practice in Organization Development and Change at senior levels in FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 companies and is an industrial fellow at Aston Business School, UK. She is on the Board of Directors for the UK Council for Work and Health and set up the Work and Health Policy Group for the British Psychology Society. She is also the Director of a small organizational psychology practice.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Industrial & Organizational Psychology