Incestuous Workplace: Stress and Distress in the Organizational Family

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TitleIncestuous Workplace: Stress and Distress in the Organizational Family
Publication TypeBook
Pub Year1997
AuthorsWhite, W. L.
Keywordsactivism, burnout, job loss, loyalty, respect, rules, stress, whistleblowing
Notes "'The last act of a dying organization is a thicker rule book.' The need for rules to control staff members marks a dramatic change in mutual respect, loyalty, and the esprit de corps that characterized earlier stages of organizational life." (p. 72) "One of the most important weapons of the organizational activist is the power to ask the right question at the right time. There are activists who make statements critical of an organization and who propose specific policies or actions, but such strategies often provoke resistance. Confronting an organization often comes out of our own ego needs and usually excites an equally ego-centered response from those who feel responsible for what we are confronting. Another strategy is to ask questions rather than make statements. There are, of course, questions that are in fact statements. Socrates was sentenced to die for posing such indicting questions..." (p. 206) "Because whistle-blowers are rarely protected from retribution by the company, whistle-blowing is one of the purest and highest-risk forms of activism. Those organizations most hurt by whistle-blowers are those that provide no alternative to whistle-blowing to resolve concerns over potentially illegal or unethical actions. When all other doors of redress are shut, a company invites whistle-blowing." (p. 208) "It is only proper that I should conclude by examining how to respond effectively to the victims of professional distress, for it was precisely the concern over such casualties that compelled the studies and consultation work that served as the foundation for this book. In the process of conducting those early studies, I had the very disquieting experience of listening for many hours to workers who were caught up in the incestuous dynamics and role conditions I've described here. I interviewed workers whose health self-destructed from sheer physical exhaustion, workers whose marriages were only memories, workers who fell victim to the self-medicating effects of alcohol and other drugs, and workers who fell apart emotionally. Nearly all of these individuals either left or were extruded from their work settings under conditions of extreme emotional pain. Many continued to struggle years later for emotional closure on their work experiences. They continued to seek some rational understanding of what happened to them and others in their organizations. Many of those leaving health and human services agencies received less respect, concern, and support than would have been extended to any client seeking services in the agencies in which they had worked. Such exiting workers often became the pariahs and untouchables of our field, and those of us who remained continued in our blindness or arrogance to see ourselves as immune, believing that what happened to them could not happen to us. If there is any message that collectively emerges from the stories of distressed workers, it is that we are all potential victims of these processes. Today's respected worker may be tomorrow's untouchable." (p. 297)
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