Thinking about an excerpt from “The Neurotic Behaviour of Organizations”

I hope to learn to serve my organizational clients better in their goals of organizational change and improvement.  I am curious as to what acquiring a deep understanding of “being in relationship” might mean for me and my client’s contributions to project teams and interdependent work relationships.

This excerpt inspires me to learn how to best apply these principles to helping people (and collections of people, called organizations!) improve:

“In 1987 Uri Merry and George Brown published The Neurotic Behavior of Organizations, in which they apply the principles of Gestalt therapy to the practice of assessing organizational effectiveness.  Most of the book focuses on specific aspects of organizational dysfunction, but the final chapter, “Using Gestalt in Organizations,” provides an overview of their methodology:

It appears to be possible to develop organizational change approaches and technologies by creating organizational-level analogies from Gestalt therapy… From a Gestalt therapy approach, there are the following reservations about the usual diagnostic process: (1) overemphasis on the past and cause-effect relationships in contrast to what is happening in the here and now; (2) overemphasis on a rational analytic model that restricts awareness; (3) overemphasis on intellectual understanding before moving into action; (4) too little use of participant observation and unobtrusive measures in collecting data; (5) a focus on illness rather than health.

The Gestalt therapy approach differs from the usual diagnostic mode in a number of ways: (1) Diagnosis and intervention are intertwined.  Diagnosis is not seen as a separate step prior to intervention. (2) There is an emphasis on gaining the client’s trust more than on collecting a substantial amount of information. (3) The consultant’s sensations, feelings and internal states are seen as important data. (4) The responsibility for the diagnosis is not taken from the client…

A Gestalt therapy approach to management development has been explicated and empirically tried out in a number of organizations… This approach to authentic management differs from the usual human relations approach on these features: (1) a focus on recognition and mobilization of the individual’s strength and powers; (2) a sharpened awareness of what the individual does and how; (3) an intensification of dramatization of “problem behavior” until a change of relationship takes place; (4) consideration of aggressiveness and conflict as valued vitalizing forces; (5) an emphasis on the individual’s own feedback; (6) an emphasis on strengthening the person’s competence and autonomy; (7) acknowledgment of the importance of increasing awareness of present behavior and completing it; (8) keeping values up front even when this means less disclosure; (9) an emphasis on increasing the individual’s competence; (10) involvement of the consultant as a participant, a director, and an activist…

When we speak of using Gestalt therapy with organizations or at the organization level, the fact remains that we ultimately are going to be using this approach with individuals or groups of individuals.


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