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Organisational Mistrust: Exploring the Issues, Pondering Its Fate …

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‘Sociologists have finally discovered that without trust, an everyday social life [that we can depend on] is simply not possible’.

(Good, 1999, p. ix)

Whether it is in international affairs, politics, business, or family matters, whether it is justified or unjustified, real or imagined, a general feeling of suspicion and mistrust is everywhere. As if some more tangible verification is needed, an examination of the titles of books on hand at The George Washington University Gelman Library lists a total of 504 books in their stacks on the topic of organisational trust. Of those books, 406 have been published since 2000, and fifty-one were published just in the last year. To further justify a relatively recent escalation in concern with mistrust, Burkard Sievers stated, ‘The ongoing dominant concern for trust also reflects ambiguity on the part of organizational theorists … [who] lack the courage to face and acknowledge the "heart of darkness" (Joseph Conrad) of organizational life’ (2003, pp. 20-21).

It is the position of this paper that many of the reasons for a widespread sense of organisational mistrust are hidden in the unconscious realm. Our primary intention is not to consider new information relating to the causes of this mistrust, but to explore through the lens of a new perspective some likely overlooked explanations that may lie buried within this heart of darkness. In this effort we will focus our speculations on interconnections that may exist in chains of thought from individual and organisational psychology that have previously met with some degree of acceptance, but that may not have yet become associated with this culture of mistrust. We will then suggest a preliminary image of the model that if and when refined may someday lead us to a dependable method for bringing matters from the unconscious into consciousness.
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Keywords: change; culture; management; organisational trust; structure

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Organisational and Social Dynamics is a forum for the publication of theoretical and applied papers that are relevant and accessible to an international readership; and, one where writers from psychoanalytic, group relations, and systems perspectives can address emerging issues in organisations and societies throughout the world.

    It aims to sustain a creative tension between scientific rigour and popular appeal, both developing conversations with the professional and social scientific world and opening up these conversations to practitioners and reflective citizens everywhere. We wish to attract manuscripts from contributors who are aware of their own values, suppositions and assumptions, the influence of counter-transference in their work, whatever form it takes, and the ability to connect the internal world of individuals and groups with societal and global processes.
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