In search of the otherness of self : an empirical exploration of employees' passage to emotional autonomy in the context of organisational change

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines employee's pursuit of emotional autonomy as a desire in the context of organisational change. In subjecting the employees to its dictates, organisational change demands them to be a certain way and act in certain prescribed manners (Fotaki, 2009, Driver, 2009a, Glynos, 2010). This impelled reformation of the employees' subjectivity at the dint of the organisation has been problematised for its assumption that the employee will and can invest her sense of self to the former (Essers, Böhm and Contu, 2009). This thesis addresses this problematic by examining how employees pursue a distinct sense of self that can act and decide for themselves - through the concept of emotional autonomy (Noom, Marc and Meuss, 1999). The concept of emotional autonomy is rooted in adolescent developmental psychology (Steinberg and Silverberg, 1986, Ryan and Lynch, 1989) and suffers from the individualistic assumptions characteristic of the discipline. Yet, the concept's utility has been recognised for adults and the complex network of relationships that is the hallmark of their lives as intersubjective beings (McBride, 1990, Carrigan and Szmigin, 2006, Bekin, Carrigan and Szmigin, 2006). Therefore, one of the principal objectives of this thesis is to absolve the concept of emotional autonomy from its individualistic underpinnings and re-theorise it through a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective within the context of organisational change. From a psychoanalytic perspective as well, autonomy has also been problematised for the impossibility of its attainment (Roberts, 2005, Stavrakakis, 2008). The author contends that despite the impossibility of attainment, the desire for a distinct sense of self is recognisable and worthy of examination. Therefore, this thesis approaches emotional autonomy not as an outcome of the employee's struggle with the demands of organisational change; but as a pursuit of desire that is riveted with its own lacks, fantasies and indeterminacies (Kenny, 2009, Costas and Taheri, 2012). This thesis upholds a focus on the fragmentation of self that happens at the dint of the master signifier of change, which subjects the employee and impels her to transition from the self that is not subjected to the master signifier. Hence, the striving for emotional autonomy for an employee is about pursuing a distinct sense of self and navigating and coping with her fragments of selves. To this end, this thesis draws upon Lacan's theories of discourse to examine how the employees signify to others from whom they seek autonomy (Lacan, 2007a, Fink, 1995, Bracher, 1993), and of alienation and separation that theorises the subject's transition across her fragmented being (Verhaeghe, 2019, Moati, 2014, Lacan, 1998d). The empirical investigation of this research was conducted in a UK based multinational insurance organisation, Aegis, that was introducing a new methodology for software development - Agile - within its digital transformation project of building a new software platform for underwriting. To fully appreciate the subtle intricacies and complexities of the context and the employee's struggles in it, the study integrated the methods of non participant observation and interviews (conducted longitudinally) that lasted over four months (Sköld, 2010). The data gathered from this study amounted to observational notes from 181 meetings and 40.2 hours of recorded data from 58 interviews with 36 participants. The analysis surfaced a range of subject positions that the participants assumed and shifted across to signify a new sense of self through their articulations of what it meant to be Agile. The examination of the significations of this right approach for the participants, implicit with the need to act and decide the way they deem fit, unpacked several comple
Date of Award29 Sep 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorPeter McInnes (Supervisor) & Harry Sminia (Supervisor)

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