You are here: Start

Control and the Psyche

Control, in organisations, is initially ‘only’ a way of processing social complexity. However, on the psychological level of the superior and the employee, control is mostly also coupled to affects.

Here, four variants with regard to dysfunctional consequences are particularly significant:

• Frequently, control is coupled with mistrust. Here, it is relevant whether a specific behaviour (quality of work), a characteristic (professional competence) or the person (integrity) is in question. The more general and personal, the more likely it is that negative consequences grow. Both the supervisor and the employee have much scope (guiding process self-responsibility) about how they psychologically experience the communication coloured by control. Both can infuse control with mistrust, or else judge it as a normal procedure in an organisation, which has nothing or little to do with oneself or the respective esteem for the other person.

• When control is experienced or practiced as domination, controlling, subjugation, cruelty or humiliation, this is, from an organisational viewpoint, dysfunctional. Then, employees, for reasons of self-respect alone, must quit, or enter into a dispute against the superior, which, by necessity, affects the performance.

• In employees, a frequent, emotional response to control is rebelliousness, as many people have developed problematic patterns with authorities, as they had to assert themselves early on by rebelling against such figures. Such patterns are very entrenched, and they are often acted out, or concealed for a lifetime. The impact on communication and performance, in each case, results in enormous loss as a result of friction.

• Over-conforming is also a variant for changing from the objective, necessary control to the psychological level. Superiors are often satisfied with this, because on the surface everything is running well. What is easily overlooked, though, is that the over-conforming leads to a withholding of critical and important information on the side of the employee and, therefore, the basis for decision-making deteriorates.

In summary: Whenever exercising control, vigilance about the emotional state of those who exercise control and those, who are being controlled, is always required in organisations.