Surviving Work in the UK

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    A matter of principles: the psychodynamics of solidarity in trade unions

A matter of principles: the psychodynamics of solidarity in trade unions

People walking on gray pavement, by Unsplash, under a CC0 licence
Despite women working in higher education still being paid 12 per cent less than men and half of all teaching staff on precarious contracts, last month 57 per cent of my union’s members voted against taking industrial action over decent pay in education. You don’t need to be an […]

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    The media and policymakers don’t realise that the role of trade unions has expanded

The media and policymakers don’t realise that the role of trade unions has expanded

Teachers, college lecturers and DWP staff on strike, by Roger Blackwell, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
When we think about trade unions there are various images that come to mind. Normally these relate to forms of collective action and strikes, the late night negotiations with employers over pay increases, and the political role they play as in the current internal Labour Party […]

Management teaching promotes inequality

Hult International Business School, by Jay Cross, under a CC-BY-2.o licence
The burgeoning economic inequality between the richest and the poorest across the world is a cause of concern for social, political, and ethical reasons. In 2016 the Oxfam Davos report revealed that 62 people only own the same as half of the world, representing an increase of 38 per cent […]

How we treat those who are excluded from the world of work

UK Job Centre, by J J Ellison, own work, under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence, via Wikimedia Commons
I, Daniel Blake, the prize-winning film directed by Ken Loach, mounts a powerful and moving challenge to the way vulnerable people are treated in Britain’s welfare system. Predictably, Iain Duncan Smith who as Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) […]

When a psychologist’s true calling is social activism

Small section of the crowd, London G20 protests April 2009, by Kashfi Halford, under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 licence
It all started at the LSE in 1972. I’d just successfully completed a post graduate diploma in social policy to add to my degree in psychology and felt troubled. My degree had mainly covered behaviourism, new research on sensory perception and a sneering glance […]

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    Perversion at work: organising colleagues against one another

Perversion at work: organising colleagues against one another

Sandro Botticelli – Inferno, Canto XVIII (cropped), Public Domain
Perversion happens even in the best of companies. One can encounter it in education, in big multi-nationals, in handicraft businesses, or in a small neighbourhood store. Yet no matter where a ‘pervert kernel’ crops up, its victims suffer.

Psychoanalysis offers us important tools for understanding the darker side of relational complications in […]

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    The paradox of bullied and frightened workers delivering quality care

The paradox of bullied and frightened workers delivering quality care

Top physician, nurse leaders carve out time for patient care, by Army Medicine, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
As the crisis in health and social care deepens, the paradox of a bullied and frightened workforce delivering quality patient care becomes pronounced. Far from the abstract leadership literature, the management challenge has become how to build functioning teams often within an institutional context […]

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    Healing the rifts between mental health workers and psychiatric survivors

Healing the rifts between mental health workers and psychiatric survivors

Back head, grey hairs, by Philippe Alès, own work, under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence, via Wikimedia Commons
Many people who have used mental health services, especially if they have experienced compulsory treatment or detention, describe themselves as ‘psychiatric survivors.’ This doesn’t just mean they have survived a mental health crisis, or the damaging circumstances that may have led to it. It also means […]

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    In the absence of proper jobs, therapists turn to precarious work

In the absence of proper jobs, therapists turn to precarious work

Lights, abstract, blur, orange, by littlevisuals.co, under a CC0 licence
A dismayed psychotherapist in the Midlands, struggling to re-build a private practice after a career break, recently came across an advert on Facebook for a local counselling course, promising ‘the career of your dreams’. Inevitably it had elicited an array of likes and questions about how long it takes and how […]

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    Surviving work as an academic in the age of measuring impact

Surviving work as an academic in the age of measuring impact

In everyday use, by David Goehring, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
You might think it odd that a Surviving Work in the UK post is going to be about academics. In some quarters, the view is that our working lives are not like others, without all the blood and guts of ‘real’ jobs. In this view, academics avoid the pitfalls of working […]

The tyranny of satisfaction reigns in organisations

Image by geralt, under a CC0 licence
I begin most of my lectures by telling students I intend to disappoint them. I tell them I look forward to the moment when they realise that I have failed to live up to their expectations of me. Their fantasy of me as the all-knowing, all-powerful leader who will teach them what they […]

Toxic workplaces impact health professionals

Doctor, by unsplash.com, via Pexels, under a CC0 licence
If 2015 was the year of compassion in healthcare, then 2016 has been the year of resilience. In the context of austerity, the only response deemed appropriate is, it appears, to ‘man up’.

It is now mainstream to talk about resilience in the plans for helicopter routes across London and school curricula for five-year […]

Find your own inner power

Woman staring out the window, by Rhoda Baer (photographer) for the US NIH, Public Domain
There are three of them and one of me. They sit across the table, watching me intently, weighing up my best-attempt responses to their relentless line of questioning. Judge, jury and executioner – and me, interview candidate for the umpteenth time in as many months, honest witness […]

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    Counting the self employed as entrepreneurs is a meme that refuses to die

Counting the self employed as entrepreneurs is a meme that refuses to die

Busker at Picadilly Circus tube station, by Editor5807, own work, under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence, via Wikimedia Commons
As the UK Government opens an inquiry into the realities of the ‘gig economy’, the fiction and spin around self-employment is starting to look like a profound distortion of workplace realities.

One of our workplace fairy stories involves the conflation of entrepreneurship and […]

Psychoanalysis can help us make sense of Brexit

Hungary-Serbia border barrier, by Bőr Benedek, under a CC BY 2.0 licence

“It is always possible to bind a number of people in love as long as there are others left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness – the outsider may be different in only minor ways, but this will suffice.”
— Freud, Civilisation and Its Discontents
The Brexit campaign was notable in […]

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    Alienated, under pressure and target driven: Why we need to make friends at work

Alienated, under pressure and target driven: Why we need to make friends at work

Support, by Ondřej Lipár, under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 licence

“Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space”  (John Bowlby, Attachment & Loss 1969)

The book Intelligent Kindness describes workplace dysfunction when it interrogates the consequence of alienated, highly pressurised and target-driven workers. The book was concerned with the evasion of political, moral and ethical […]

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    Poor working conditions affect mental health workers’ state of mind

Poor working conditions affect mental health workers’ state of mind

Tunnel, by tresdetres, under a CC0 licence
Today celebrates World Mental Health day – another barometer of public attitudes towards mental health. Even over the last twelve months we have seen a rise in the public appetite to engage with and understand the growing mental health crisis. For those of us who work in mental health the changing climate is […]

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    In business, as in government, direct democracy is not possible

In business, as in government, direct democracy is not possible

Photo by David Shankbone, own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
One of the mad ideas that seems to have been unchallenged during the recent referendum is that a referendum is democratic. The recent referendum demonstrates that the pressure from his own party to take a lead on Europe was too much for Mr Cameron, who passed the decision back to […]

The focus on exam grades is failing the next generation

High-school pupils in Szczecin, Poland, waiting to write a matura exam, 2005, by Marcin Otorowski and Oskar Błaszkowski, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
The end of August, and the results for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) are out. Over the sound of nervous heartbeats and tearing envelopes we hear that these are the worst results in 25 years, […]

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    The side effect of treating higher education as a commodity: less free expression

The side effect of treating higher education as a commodity: less free expression

Thoughts, by Sgt. Pepper57, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
Last week a student I teach at a UK university wrote to my employers to propose that I should be sacked. My pedagogical crime was to change a slide on my power point presentation the day before the lecture. The student also raised his concerns that I move around the room during the […]