Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 2 2007, page 67-79.
English resume

New management as double-bind communication

Jens Gudiksen


In modern working life, management is emphasized as an issue of growing importance. This expresses itself in the self-images of management, in new management methods and new ways of organizing processes of work. New management methods are trying to reproduce the performance dynamics of self-employed entrepreneurs among their ‘regular’ employees, leading them to become the driving force in the company’s purpose. Today’s new management methods expect persons, employed on a dependent basis, to act as entrepreneurs. The employees are confronted with the demand to produce commitment, independency, initiative, willingness to take risks etc. in new ways of organizing work processes – for instance as team working. The grounds for these demands are mostly from a managerial point of view argued to be a process of liberation on the employee’s behalf. Employees are being liberated from a traditional hierarchical command system. However, the consequences of being positioned as employees in this new ‘liberated’ situation are, from the point of view of the employees themselves, generally bewildering. On the one hand, employees are to some extent liberated from a traditional command system. On the other hand, they are made responsible for, and must take responsibility for, the processes and systems necessary to make the work done in the prevailing situation facing the employee acting as entrepreneur. This situation is a fundamentally new and complex situation with multiple contradictions. One striking contradiction is that the employee has become an ‘independent dependent’ employee. The article identifies a core contradiction: the new management’s offer of space for self-imposed self-fulfilment for the new liberated and independent employee is actually put forward as a demand. In essence, employees are coerced into commitment, innovation, flexibility and so forth. It is argued that there are many similarities between the ways this contradiction presents itself, and the kind of contradictions Gregory Bateson characterizes as double-binds, where such stressful relations may have severe pathological implications.



Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)


 

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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt