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Defensive Routines

The term ‘Defensive Routines’ comes from Chris Agyris. With it, he gathered many observations about how the retention of the status quo is ensured in organisations. In this, the term refers on the one hand to psychodynamics, as he sees the reasons for defensive behaviour in the fact that individuals fear a loss of face and wish to avoid this, or avoid being seen as ‘weak’. On the other hand, ‘routine’ indicates that the manner and method in which attempts are made to suppress undesired messages can follow a common pattern in organisations. Different people utilise the same methods to deal with psychologically difficult situations such as silence, withdrawal, counter attack, put-downs, change of subject, revenge actions, ostracism and many more. Interesting in all this is the observation that such behaviour patterns are even tolerated, when they are officially undesired. This appears to be one of the main reasons why such routines develop, because such a practised and practical fear defence is made available to the employees as a communicative pattern by the organisation. In addition, the extent of this phenomenon shows how decisively employees’ fears about learning- and change processes influence organisations, and, viewed another way, how such patterns stimulate the employees to process their fears in the offered manner. At best, coordinated co-production, organisation and the person all produce stability in the prevention of the new.