Original Research

Anxiety and excitement in the fourth industrial revolution: A systems- psychodynamic perspective

Claude-Hélène Mayer, Rudolf M. Oosthuizen
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 47 | a1813 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1813 | © 2021 Claude-Hélène Mayer, Rudolf M. Oosthuizen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 June 2020 | Published: 25 January 2021

About the author(s)

Claude-Hélène Mayer, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Institut für Therapeutische Kommunikation und Sprachgebrauch, Europa Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt, Germany
Rudolf M. Oosthuizen, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, School of Management Sciences, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) creates numerous organisational changes. New technologies and their influences are studied; however, hardly any research focuses on studying the unconscious systems psychodynamics (SPs).

Research purpose: The purpose of the study was to explore and understand feelings in an organisational 4IR context from a SP perspective.

Motivation for the study: Scholars have recently issued calls to shift attention from describing the 4IR processes in terms of rapid structural, technological and disruptive changes towards the understanding of subjective ‘lived-through’ feelings and experiences and in situ responses to 4IR events. Based on this shift, the authors aim at exploring the ‘lived-through’ experiences in this study from a SP viewpoint.

Research approach/design and method: This article presents findings from a qualitative study conducted in a technology organisation, analysing 16 interviews with managers in middle and top management positions.

Main findings: The findings show SP playing out in terms of splitting, projection, projective identification and idealisation. Findings with regard to the five fundamental systemic behavioural conventions (dependency, flight/fight, pairing, me-ness, one-ness or we-ness) are also presented.

Practical/managerial implications: Managers experience anxiety and excitement as strongly influential in the 4IR transformational processes and as playing an important role in SP processes.

Contributions/value-add: Organisations and employees need to be made aware of the new trends in the 4IR and the underlying unconscious processes within the organisation. Employees could undergo training to improve their understanding of intra- and inter-psychological and organisational processes and the impact on organisational change and transformation within the 4IR contexts.


systems psychodynamics; feeling; splitting; projection; projective identification; idealisation; 4IR; anxiety; excitement; organisational change.


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Crossref Citations

1. Sense of Coherence in Managers during COVID-19 and the New World of Work: A Mixed-Method Study
Claude-Hélène Mayer, Cemonn Wegerle, Rudolf M. Oosthuizen
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health  vol: 18  issue: 21  first page: 11492  year: 2021  
doi: 10.3390/ijerph182111492