The Unconscious at Work: Individual and Organizational Stress in the Human Services, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Unconscious at Work

Individual and Organizational Stress in the Human Services, 1st Edition

Edited by Anton Obholzer, Dr Vega Zagier Roberts, and Members of the Tavistock Clinic 'Consulting to Institutions' Workshop


248 pages

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Paperback: 9780415102063
pub: 1994-08-11
Hardback: 9781138127746
pub: 2015-09-04
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pub: 2003-09-02
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Working in the human services has always been stressful, and the current massive changes in the organization of these services, together with dwindling resources and ever greater demands for cost effectiveness, add to the stresses inherent in the work. Even in the best run and best resourced organizations there are pockets of irrationality where unconscious institutional processes undermine both effectiveness and morale.

The contributors to this book use ideas drawn from psychoanalysis, open systems theory, Bion's work with groups, and group relations training to explore the difficulties experienced by managers and staff in a wide range of care settings. Each concept is illustrated with examples from practice to make it recognizable and useful to the reader.

Each chapter develops a theme relating to work with a particular client group or setting (including hospitals, schools, day centres, residential units, community services and many others), or explores aspects of work organization (for example, the supervisory relationship, facing cuts and closure, or intergroup collaboration). By describing both the difficulties and their own feelings and thoughts while consulting to these institutions, the authors offer the reader new ways of looking at their own experiences at work which will be both enlightening and helpful.


'What makes this book excellent?… the writing is direct and clear, presenting complex subjects effectively. The abundance of examples is accompanied by intellectual rigour… highly recommended to workers, managers, students and teachers in the human services.' - Professional Social Work

'As a reminder of the processes that can bring individual work, teams and corporate planning to a grinding halt this book is invaluable.' - Probation Journal

Table of Contents

J. Mosse, Introduction: The Institutional Roots of Consulting to Institutions. Part I. Conceptual Framework. W. Halton, Some Unconscious Aspects of Organizational Life: Contributions from Psychoanalysis. J. Stokes, The Unconscious at Work in Groups and Teams: Contributions from the Work of Wilfred Bion. V. Zagier Roberts, The Organization of Work: Contributions from Open Systems Theory. A. Obholzer, Authority, Power and Leadership: Contributions from Group Relations. Part II. Working with People in Pain. D. Moylan,The Dangers of Contagion: Projective Identification Processes in Institutions. N. Cohn, Attending to Emotional Issues on a Special Care Baby Unit. C. Mawson, Containing Anxiety in Work with Damaged Children. V. Zagier Roberts, Till Death Us Do Part: Caring and Uncaring in Work with the Elderly. A. Obholzer, Fragmentation and Integration in a School for Physically Handicapped Children. P. Speck, Working with Dying People: On Being Good Enough. A. Dartington, Where Angels Fear to Tread: Idealism, Despondency and Inhibition of Thought in Hospital Nursing. V. Zagier Roberts, The Self-assigned Impossible Task. Part III. Institutions in Crisis. J. Stokes, Institutional Chaos and Personal Stress. A. Obholzer, V. Zagier Roberts, The Troublesome Individual and the Troubled Institution. F. Cardona, Facing an Uncertain Future. J. Mosse, V. Zagier Roberts, Finding a Voice: Differentiation, Representation and Empowerment in Organizations under Threat. W. Bolton, V. Zagier Roberts, Asking for Help: Staff Support and Sensitivity Groups Re-viewed. Part IV. Towards Healthier Organizations. A. Obholzer, Managing Social Anxieties in Public Sector Organizations. C. Clulow, Balancing Care and Control: The Supervisory Relationship as a Focus for Promoting Organizational Health. V. Zagier Roberts, Conflict and Collaborations: Managing Intergroup Relations. R. Leiper, Evaluation: Organizations Learning from Experience. A. Obholzer, Afterword. Appendix. Bibliography. Suggestions for Further Reading. Index.

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