Unconscious At Work (Paperback)

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Product Details

21 Feb 2019
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Anton Obholzer (Editor)
Vega Zagier Roberts (Editor)
Taylor & Francis
2nd New edition
Number of Pages
235 x 159mm (235g)


Why do our organizations so often seem to be less than the sum of their parts? What undermines effectiveness and morale, and gets in the way of achieving what we set out to do?

The Unconscious at Work, Second Edition draws on a body of thinking and practice which has developed over the past 70 years, often referred to as 'the Tavistock approach' or 'systems-psychodynamics'. All the contributors are practising consultants who draw on this framework, bringing it alive and making it useful to any reader – manager, leader or consultant, regardless of whether they have any prior familiarity with the underlying concepts – who is curious about what might be driving the puzzling or stressful situations they find in their workplace.

The First Edition was addressed to people working in 'the human services': health, social care and education. Since it was published in 1994, there has been growing interest in the business world, and in understanding more about the 'irrational' side of organizational life. Therefore, this Second Edition includes an entirely new section where the key ideas are revisited and illustrated with case studies from a wide range of business organizations, from large corporations to start-ups and family businesses.

The aim, however remains the same: to enlarge readers' existing sense-making 'tool-kits' so that they can look at themselves and their organizations with fresh eyes, deepening the emotional intelligence they bring to bear on the challenges they face and providing new possibilities for action. The Unconscious at Work, Second Edition is for managers, leaders, consultants, and anyone working in organizations who has been puzzled, disturbed or challenged by their experiences at work.


General Subject
BISAC Subject 1
Psychology / Industrial & Organizational Psychology
BISAC Subject 2
Social Science / Social Work
BISAC Subject 3
Psychology / Movements / Psychoanalysis
BIC Classification 1
BIC Classification 2
Occupational & industrial psychology
BIC Classification 3
Social work
BIC Classification 4
Psychoanalytical theory (Freudian psychology)
Library Subject 1
System theory
Library Subject 2
Group relations training
Library Subject 3
Human services personnel - Job stress
Dewey Classification

Author Bio

Anton Obholzer, BSc, MB, ChB, DPM, FRCPsych, is a psychoanalyst, organizational consultant, and former CEO of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. He is a senior member of Faculty of the Advanced Management Programme of the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre in Paris.

Vega Zagier Roberts, M.D. is an independent consultant and coach, an Associate Consultant at Tavistock Consulting, and a faculty member on the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust/University of Essex master's and doctoral programmes Consulting and Leading in Organisations.

Review Quotes

"We have used this classic and exceptional text to inform the design and delivery of our programmes with managers and leaders in health and social care. It is essential that public service leaders recognise powerful emotional states and work with them. A 2ndedition of this book is timely as organisations struggle to cope, adapt and thrive in complex, ambiguous and uncertain contexts. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about unconscious processes at work and how understanding these can enhance awareness, effectiveness and performance."Ann Mahon, Professor of Health Leadership, Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK

"Setting out the basis for the understanding of work in human service organizations, the publication of the original `Unconscious at Work' in 1994 was a landmark event in the field. In this excellent, updated volume, Anton Obholzer and Vega Zagier Roberts have extended the scope of the book to the corporate sector, and have produced a volume of outstanding quality. Drawing on a range of experts who take a psychoanalytic view, this volume comprises a series of superb chapters on a wide range of topics. I cannot recommend it too highly."-Mark Stein, Chair in Leadership and Management, School of Business, University of Leicester, UK

"An invaluable book in developing my leadership of complex organisations and systems. The book really helped me to build my understanding of the impact of the nature of work and context on people's performance. The book also enhanced my understanding of how basic human experience outside of work define people and teams' reactions to leaders and each other. The research and examples across a range of settings and sector really help you build change and performance improvement programmes which will have a lasting positive impact."-Fiona Edwards, CEO Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust, UK

Reviews for the first editon of The Unconscious at Work:

"What makes this book excellent? ...the writing is direct and clear, presenting complex subjects effectively. The abundance of examples is accompanied by intellectual rigour... highly recommended to workers, managers, students and teachers in the human services."-Professional Social Work

"As a reminder of the processes that can bring individual work, teams and corporate planning to a grinding halt this book is invaluable."-Probation Journal