Where angels and mere mortals fear to tread. Exploring 'sibling' relations in the work place.

Huffington, Clare and Miller, Sarah (2008) Where angels and mere mortals fear to tread. Exploring 'sibling' relations in the work place. Organisational and Social Dynamics, 8 (1). pp. 18-37. ISSN 1474-2780 (Print) ; 2044-3765 (Online)

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The significance of traditional, vertical relationships, whether familial or organizational, is well documented. However, the same cannot be said for lateral or sibling relationships, either in the sphere of psychoanalytic or organizational writing. Mitchell (2004) contends that sibling relationships are intrinsic because they offer a continuous link to one's family and roots. In this paper, the authors propose that one lens through which to think about lateral relationships in the workplace is that of familial sibling relationships, just as vertical relationships appear to (in many ways) replicate parental-child relationships. The paper describes a shifting focus away from the vertical to the lateral and draws upon sibling and sibling-type relationships from literature and elsewhere to examine the dynamics that are provoked by siblings, real or otherwise. The reduction in family size, decline of the extended family, and the dynamics between generations X and Y are also touched upon. The paper includes a case study based on the work undertaken by one of the authors with an IT company. The company is facing the retirement of its founding CEO and is therefore preoccupied with concerns about succession. The authors conclude that, as laterality comes into sharper view, it is important to understand and work with lateral dynamics as well as the interface between these and traditional hierarchical relationships, and they suggest that one medium in which this could be explored is the group relations conference. Finally, the authors comment on the fact that, while sibling rivalry is inevitable, other feelings such as ambivalence and even camaraderie exist in this relationship, too, and that opportunities to harness the creativity this engenders should be explored.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Department/People: Tavistock Consultancy Service
Related URLs:
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/76

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