Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 3 2003, page 41-57.
Kirsten Marie Bovbjerg
In modern work places employees are, in increasing numbers, sent on courses in personal development. These courses are paid by the firms for which they work. Gradually, the courses address employees at all levels in organisations. The aim is to create employees who are flexible and ready for change. In these courses one works with the employees’ personality in the belief that people have an unconscious inner self that has unused resources that can be used to the benefit of both the employees and the firm.
In the article, which is based on the work of the French philosopher Marcel Gauchet, I draw attention to the consequences the cultural construction of the ‘unconcious’ has for this development. Next, I show how a particular discourse is established in courses concerning personal development. With reference to biology and neurology the discourse seeks to establish an acultural discourse that firms use to change employees’ personality and behaviour.
This discourse is seen to be supporting a view of the organisation as being without conflicts of interests, and can be seen as a form of governmentality in the understanding of Michel Foucault and Nikolas Rose. The ideal is an agreement between the firm/organisation and its employees in which the firm can rely on the loyalty of the workers, whilst the firm holds out the prospect of personal development to the employees.
In this article, I wish to problematise what this agreement means for the employee’s possibility to negotiate their working conditions and have a say in the decisions concerning their working lives. The articles’ empirical material is based on a field study of the use of the transpersonal method Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) in different work places, including how NLP enters into modern management and New Age respectively.