INTRODUCTION OF THE AUTHOR:
Roman Vodeb, a double MSc (Kinesiology and Sociology of Culture), offered some new interpretations in occupational psychology many years ago, using Freudian psychoanalysis.
By now he has covered the concepts of mobbing, burnout, workaholism, stress economy and non self-conscious emotions at the workplace – also in connection with team building.
Occupational psychology has not been known to use Freudian or psychoanalytical concepts till now. Yet since there have been some obvious glitches in the theory and the researchers of mobbing and burnout have wandered off in the wrong direction, some of us theoretical psychoanalysts felt obligated to offer our opinions. We intervened in the field of occupational psychology and altered some concepts, so things look different than some years ago. While mobbing and burnout have been pretty well defined so far, psychoanalysis pointed out some other key factors. Non self-conscious emotions at the workplace need to be addressed and researched, theoretical concepts have to be built. People from the USA and Western Europe, who introduced the concept of team building (TB) mostly don’t understand what it is really about. Again it was up to psychoanalysts to step up and clear things up, since they can comprehend its point and theoretical background. The point of TB is mainly in non self-conscious psychic activity or non self conscious emotion of the participants, which is connected to childhood emotions. In intensely cooperating groups (or tandems) certain types of emotion occur, which have transferable characteristics. Freud completed a concept of so called transference, which is the precondition for psychic changes to occur in psychotherapy (classic psychoanalysis), which can lead to curing or eliminating unwanted symptoms of patients. Similar transferable (symbolic) emotions occur in the workplace. A persons sentiments towards an “important other” in their childhood – mostly mother and father (also sisters, brothers), are repeated in the workplace towards superiors or subordinates. Such sentiments can be tricky. Negative sentiments (negative transfer) are always problematic – they are activated by mobbing (mostly from the “attacker”, also by “victims”). The positive transfer can potentially also cause problems especially in mixed gender tandems. Sexuality can cause issues in an otherwise well functioning team, due to the positive transfer of sentiments (but not necessarily).
The advocates of TB and employers suggest such “therapies” will lead to more positive sentiments within the team and increase loyalty towards each other. Because of activities carried out in a team building exercise the collective would start feeling positive (transferred) sentiments. These can increase productivity and creativity of the team. All in all it should lead to an increase in profits and decrease of contra-productive sentiments, which can be transformed into positive ones through TB exercises. An employee, who feels good in a collective and likes to go to work, creates more output – in the sense of creativity and productivity.
Activities and workshops encompassed in TB exercises are designed to makes sure co-workers start connecting more and feel positive sentiments towards each other. In layman’s terms – they get to know each other better. In the background of these positive sentiments (and in turn better trust and loyalty) there is the activation of certain emotional paradigms which reside in the non self-consciousness and are connected with the childhood. TB cannot activate this process by “born loners”, who simply don’t have the required infantile predispositions. Yet many people do start connecting better and trusting each other through TB. To put in psychoanalytical terms – a transference happens. Workshops or activities of TB exercises are put together in a way which activates dispositions for transferable emotions. When returning to the workplace the participants see their co-workers in a different more positive way – a way unfamiliar to them before. The ambition and concept of TB is enabling the co-workers to see each other in a positive and informal way. At work most are very official and professional. They don’t display powerful emotion. At work many people are in fact “playing themselves”. Therefore the co-workers can’t really feel them and don’t recognize them as people with deeper (positive) emotions. TB can influence these perceptions in a positive way. It is not mainly about motivating, however this is often the case, since the participants are thankful to their employer for the (expensive) workshops, and are consequentially more loyal. TB is also not about relaxation and pleasantness of which the employees don’t get enough at the workplace. The main goal of this concept or paradigm is activating transferable emotions – and this is what the providers of such workshops/activities are mostly unaware of (in many cases, neither are the employers). What they do know is that TB must be structured in a way to make the participants feel pleasant and even feel adrenaline, when in fact the whole point of it is to break the monotony of demonstrating routine emotion. The participants are introduced to each other in a new way – a way which encourages different views and different (non self-conscious) emotion. When “equipped” with a different view of the co-workers they interact differently (better) at the workplace. The point of TB is to make sure people return full of positive energy towards the team and co-workers. This is exactly what the employer (client) truly wants – or better: should want. Some employers don’t really know about these advantages and don’t see the real point in TB activities. They commission TB workshops because they are modern and because everybody recommends it. They are unaware, however, of the scope of non self-conscious emotions and the role of the non self-consciousness in general.
TB has its traps as well. It can also activate some negative sentiments – mainly in participants who oppose certain types of workshops/activities. Poorly selected workshops/activities can irritate some participants in way which will give a negative impression to their co-workers. This is not to berecommended. Some people successfully hide their “real self/Self” – or professionally: they compensate their (psychic and social) “patos”. TB should not encourage different decompensations which dwell right beneath the surface by some people. Similar decompensations occur by some people when drunk – some become totally different. By decompensating we don’t mean those who become “totally different” when drinking in a positive light, but those who turn negative – become aggressive, contentious and cranky. Awkwardly drafted workshops/activities can expose someone in a “totally different” negative light. In this case, the exercise will not be in team building, but its destruction.
TB activities can be used as “tricks” to relent certain business partners towards making important business decisions. This, however is not team building but a clever business move. The feeling of obligation or debt plays a key role when partners who benefited from and expensive TB program feel subconsciously obligated to agree to a certain level of cooperation. It can also be a certain luxury which partners participate in after already making the decision for cooperation. The non self-conscious background of such meetings is quite different than the ones where participants are co-workers.
A team can be built in many ways. Expensive providers are always very original and creative in their offers. Of course they are merely copying ideas already known for many years abroad. It has to be said that TB also encompasses a range of other activities: from company trips, group recreation, congresses, seminars, conferences and other educational events, to drinks after meetings and many more. All informal gatherings outside the workplace include some of the elements of TB. It is advisable, however, for someone to keep cognitive control over these gatherings and events. Psychoanalytically put – a “mind” should keep the emotions in check to make sure no unwanted mobbing occurs and to keep a certain level of mental supervision of any sexual contacts among superior and subordinate employees.