In this short post, we reflect on the fieldnote-writing method presented in our 2020 paper entitled "(Inter)subjectivity in the research pair: Countertransference and radical reflexivity in organizational research". While fieldnote-writing is often associated with a lone researcher in a distant land, we have found it useful as a collective process in both organizational and field research. The process we developed may prove especially useful to researchers and practitioners who already use a psychosocial approach to organizations. And, our fieldnote-writing method, when used in concert with organizational assessment, aids in making both the analysis and intervention phases of the work more meaningful. Throughout the paper, we share our ‘behind-the-scenes’ experiences, demonstrating “how a research pair working together in real time can become aware of their intersubjective processes, fold together multiple dimensions of experience (conscious and unconscious), and co-construct a shared understanding of organizational dynamics” (p. 1). We also share how we discovered that the research process can yield much more than we initially thought possible. Discovering those hidden possibilities is what reflexivity is all about - and it is at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavor.
This month the CPOS reading group will be reading about and discussing one aspect of the countertransference - physical reactions. Such reactions can range from being almost imperceptible to being so distracting that they generate considerable anxiety. The paper we are reading, Listening with the Body: An Exploration in the Countertransference (Field, 1989), discusses three types of embodied countertransference: sleepiness, erotic and sexual arousal, and fear. Mirroring the questions explored in this paper we might ask: What do our physical reactions during organizational interactions mean? Do they convey something about "what it's like to work here"? If so, how might they inform our approach to studying and intervening in organizations?
"Is an interpretation always, to some extent, an imposition of our own discursive or psychical attachments?"
The answer to this question, in part, lies in exploring the subjectivity of researchers/analysts and participants/analysands in the research encounter. In part, it lies in tracing what happens to psychoanalytic concepts in the research process. This is the project taken up by Claudia Lapping in her 2013 paper entitled "Which subject, whose desire? The constitution of subjectivity and the articulation of desire in the practice of research".
The article reminds us that our inner emotional experiences are always both a potential source of insight and a path towards imposing our own needs and desires on organizational members. Interpretation is sometimes the expression of our own, not others', desires. And, sometimes it is an attempt to hide the lack that we cannot bear to acknowledge. The research encounter inevitably evokes something about us. We may attribute these aspects of our experience to the other (through interpretation) when, in fact, they reveal something about our selves.
This recent book highlights the challenges in consulting to "traumatized organizations" - a state arising from "failed dependency" in the organizational setting. In the introduction, editor Earl Hopper suggests that "consultations to traumatized organizations are always disturbing to the consultant" (p. xxii) making countertransference an important aspect of data generation and analysis. The book is instructive for organizational researchers who negotiate similar dynamics in the doing of embedded or immersive research. The book features contributions from an international group of analysts and consultants who draw from a variety of psychoanalytic perspectives. Each chapter focuses on a dimension of organizational life in an organizational setting (e.g. behavioral health, correctional, corporate, academic) characterized by traumatic experience.