The dynamics of fear in the workplace: The contribution of attachment theory to leadership training and behaviour





This paper will take an evolutionary perspective on the dynamics of work relations and focus on the way in which change and creativity can be fostered or inhibited by organizational dynamics. It will focus on the kind of leadership necessary to support exploratory peer relationships amongst staff at all levels of the organization. It will introduce the reader to ideas developed by two English Psychoanalysts, Dorothy Heard and Brian Lake, and expanded and developed by Una McCluskey on the nature of creativity and wellbeing and show how their ideas can inform relations between people in the workplace. Their work builds on the work of a colleague of theirs John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment theory. We will introduce McCluskey’s research on the processes involved in the effective assuagement of the fear system within individuals which inhibit exploration and creativity. In addition, we will present a training and development program developed by José Miguez based on McCluskey’s work, and effectively implemented at the University of Porto. We signal several insights which result from the research that José Miguez and Catarina Brandão conducted on that program and which contributes to understand the dynamics underlying training and leadership processes in organizations. One of the key findings is the influence of fear on a person’s capacity, competence, performance and wellbeing. Since many organizations these days exist in a culture of fear, this analysis is both timely and important.



Attachment theory, organizational dynamics, training, leadership.


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