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Original Research

Exploring the development of an organisational culture of control and dependency from a systems psychodynamic perspective

René van Eeden

SA Journal of Industrial Psychology; Vol 36, No 1 (2010), 11 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajip.v36i1.854

Submitted: 26 August 2009
Published:  12 May 2010


Orientation: Globalisation and accelerating rates of change characterise the work environment.

Research purpose: The aim of this research was to study the impact of the change process at a plant of a South African production company.

Motivations for the study: Problems were experienced in terms of production and a need for transformation at different levels was expressed. Co-dependence in the environment necessitated exploration of intra-organisational dynamics.

Research design, approach and method: The study focused on the management team at a specifc plant, but by applying the systems psychodynamic perspective it was possible to also explore the mutual effect of relationships with other systems in the organisation, the company as a whole and the environment. Respondents included the directors of manufacturing and of human resources, the general manager, an 11-member management team and staff representatives. Semi-structured one-to-one interviews, group interviews and a group consultation session were held.

Main findings: Hypotheses were formulated regarding the change experienced in the company, the overemphasis of control in the various systems, efforts to move from dependency to interdependence, personal authority as a requirement for interdependent functioning and problems with interrelatedness.

Practical/managerial implications: The study illustrates the application of the systems psychodynamic approach in exploring the interaction between and mutual infuence of various organisational systems, especially in times of change.

Contribution/value add: At a broader level, the study contributes to the understanding of the application of the theory as well as suggesting the use of a methodology. Recommendations for an intervention of this nature were also made.

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Author affiliations

René van Eeden, University of South Africa, South Africa


organisational behaviour; organisational dynamics; group relations theory; open systems theory; psychoanalysis


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ISSN: 0258-5200 (print) | ISSN: 2071-0763 (online)

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