Why do our organizations so often seem to be less than the sum of their parts? What undermines effectiveness and morale, and gets in the way of achieving what we set out to do?

The Unconscious at Work, Second Edition draws on a body of thinking and practice which has developed over the past 70 years, often referred to as 'the Tavistock approach' or 'systems-psychodynamics'. All the contributors are practising consultants who draw on this framework, bringing it alive and making it useful to any reader – manager, leader or consultant, regardless of whether they have any prior familiarity with the underlying concepts – who is curious about what might be driving the puzzling or stressful situations they find in their workplace.

The First Edition was addressed to people working in 'the human services': health, social care and education. Since it was published in 1994, there has been growing interest in the business world, and in understanding more about the 'irrational' side of organizational life. Therefore, this Second Edition includes an entirely new section where the key ideas are revisited and illustrated with case studies from a wide range of business organizations, from large corporations to start-ups and family businesses.

The aim, however remains the same: to enlarge readers' existing sense-making 'tool-kits' so that they can look at themselves and their organizations with fresh eyes, deepening the emotional intelligence they bring to bear on the challenges they face and providing new possibilities for action. The Unconscious at Work, Second Edition is for managers, leaders, consultants, and anyone working in organizations who has been puzzled, disturbed or challenged by their experiences at work.

chapter |8 pages


Making sense of organizations - the institutional roots of the Tavistock approach

part I|61 pages

Conceptual framework

chapter 1|8 pages

Some Unconscious Aspects of Organizational Life

Contributions from psychoanalysis

chapter 2|9 pages

The Dangers of Contagion

chapter 3|9 pages

The Unconscious at Work in Groups and Teams

Contributions from the work of Wilfred Bion

chapter 4|12 pages

The Organization of Work

Contributions from open systems theory

chapter 5|9 pages

Authority, Power and Leadership

Contributions from group relations training

chapter 6|12 pages

Changing the Stories We are 'in'

Power, purpose and organization-in-the-mind

part II|113 pages

The Unconscious at Work in human service organizations

part IIa|54 pages

Working with people in distress

chapter 10|10 pages

Where Angels Fear to Tread 1

Idealism, despondency and inhibition of thought in hospital nursing

chapter 11|10 pages

Till Death us do Part

Caring and uncaring in work with older people

chapter 12|8 pages

Working with Dying People

On being good enough

part IIb|57 pages

Challenges, crises and change

chapter 16|10 pages

Finding a Voice

Differentiation, representation and empowerment in organizations under threat

chapter 17|10 pages

Conflict and Collaboration

Managing intergroup relations

part III|65 pages

The unconscious at work in business organizations

chapter 19|9 pages

Family Patterns at Work

How casting light on the shadows of the past can enhance leadership in the present

chapter 20|9 pages

Feelings as Data

chapter 21|11 pages

The Myth of Rationality

Why change efforts so often fail

chapter 23|12 pages

Beyond the Individual

Reframing blame and responsibility for 'rogue' behaviour in the financial services industry 1