Original Research

Working with boundaries in systems psychodynamic consulting

Henk Struwig, Frans Cilliers
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 2 | a987 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i2.987 | © 2012 Henk Struwig, Frans Cilliers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2011 | Published: 22 March 2012

About the author(s)

Henk Struwig, UNISA, South Africa
Frans Cilliers, UNISA, South Africa

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Orientation: The researcher described the systems psychodynamics of boundary management in organisations. The data showed how effective boundary management leads to good holding environments that, in turn, lead to containing difficult emotions.

Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to produce a set of theoretical assumptions about organisational boundaries and boundary management in organisations and, from these, to develop a set of hypotheses as a thinking framework for practising consulting psychologists when they work with boundaries from a systems psychodynamic stance.

Motivation for the study: The researcher used the belief that organisational boundaries reflect the essence of organisations. Consulting to boundary managers could facilitate a deep understanding of organisational dynamics.

Research design, approach and method: The researcher followed a case study design. He used systems psychodynamic discourse analysis. It led to six working hypotheses.

Main findings: The primary task of boundary management is to hold the polarities of integration and differentiation and not allow the system to become fragmented or overly integrated. Boundary management is a primary task and an ongoing activity of entire organisations.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisations should work actively at effective boundary management and at balancing integration and differentiation. Leaders should become aware of how effective boundary management leads to good holding environments that, in turn, lead to containing difficult emotions in organisations.

Contribution/value-add: The researcher provided a boundary-consulting framework in order to assist consultants to balance the conceptual with the practical when they consult.


Authority; capability; identity; role; differentiation; integration; misalignment; fragmentation


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