Organizations as Psychic Prisons

The metaphor of organizations as psychic prisons portrays organizations as systems which are hindered by their actions which may be conscious or subconscious. As a result, the attention of these kinds of organizations tends to be shifted towards issues or matters which are irrelevant. Further, Morgan explains that feelings of narcissism, obsession, anxieties, and illusions of control tend to develop in such organizations. Employees in these kinds of organizations tend to develop defense mechanisms. Therefore, this metaphor presents organizations as socially created realities appearing out of unconscious preoccupations of the members. 


In my opinion, this metaphor helps to explain the workings of organizations in a number of ways that are important. It is therefore significant for organizations to comprehend the meaning of this metaphor as this can help management and organizational leadership gain insight on a number of factors that will be useful for the proper functioning of their organizations. For instance, the illusion of control as explained in the metaphor can be found in the top management of many organizations. For this reason, such type of leadership tends to make key policies and directives in a manner whereby there is very little reasoning involved. I also believe that the decision of some organizations to maintain a distance with the outside world is a portrayal of this metaphor. This can be best explained by the decision of many organizations to grant promotions of higher posts to insiders. This has to a larger extent shifted the corporate culture from a perspective that is based on productivity to one that is based on loyalty. 

To an extent I agree with the metaphor’s claim that organizations with characteristics of a psychic prison tend to have a low tendency for risk. In my own assessment I find that such organizations usually develop a corporate culture that is mostly oriented towards carrying out business in the usual, comfortable way. And the result of this kind of operating is much minimized flexibility in response to changes in the market. Such organizations always find it difficult to manage any changes or deviations that may occur in their external environment. One other concept of the psychic prison metaphor that I find to be rather intriguing is the phenomenon of game playing which often occurs in organizations today. According to the metaphor members of organizations tend to play unconscious games with one another. They adapt game roles like victim, rescuer, and persecutor as a result end up acting the way they are accustomed to. This keeps them trapped in their pattern of behavior. I find this phenomenon crucial for the overall wellbeing of organizations. The truth of the matter is managers of these organizations need to be diligent and act to identify these patterns of behavior as fast as they can and put a stop to them. 

Although the metaphor became public knowledge almost 3 three decades ago, my opinion is it still holds true for today’s organizations. It is therefore imperative that managers today and other organizational leaders should strive to understand it as it provides a great deal of explanations to some of the organizational behaviors taking place in their organizations. 

Organizations as Systems of Domination

The metaphor organizations as systems of domination expose the ugly side of organizations. This includes how organizations use and exploit their employees. This has resulted into concepts such as work hazards, occupational disease, industrial accidents, work stress, and organizational politics concepts which have left employees harmed and disadvantaged in one or another. Morgan notes that the metaphor also goes on to highlight the nature of multinationals, their impact on the world’s economy, their role as world powers, and their exploitation. Overall, the metaphor can be summarized as being about exploitation mechanisms and power play between people in organizations. 

I find this topic very touchy to many organizations which wish to hide their wrongs n relations to their contribution to some of the problems affecting their employees. This topic is therefore very relevant to the current nature of the status of employees today as many of the concepts of this metaphor are in my opinion true representation of organizations today. 

Working in many organizations today is very dangerous. The reason for this is the failure of most of these organizations to adhere to the occupational health and safety regulations and laws that many governments and workers’ organizations are pushing for. I have watched son many stories on the news of workers dying as a result of work related accidents and illnesses. Just the other day, I read a story in the newspaper of workers working in a grain processing factory dying as a result of a silo collapsing causing a situation of them being buried alive by grain. This is a clear indication of the failure of the factory’s management team to anticipate the occurrence of such an accident and thus take the necessary steps to prevent it. There are so many health hazards for workers in organizations. Organizations continue operating with the presumption that these hazards do not matter and they are under no obligation to do anything about it. I beg to differ with this misled notion by organizations and call them out to take responsibility and make a change with regards of their treatment of employees.  

Multinationals and their impact on the world is another concept from this metaphor that I find important to reflect upon. They have been portrayed to be agents of oppression and exploitation a fact that is not mere exaggeration but rather the plain truth. For instance, in many developing countries large multinationals have been notorious for overlooking the interest of the local people. Cases of people being displaced from their land are not new whenever a multinational corporation pitches tent. Many people are pushed into settling in urban areas where they are forced to work for these multinationals with a remuneration of very meager wages. Moreover, most of these multinational organizations are known for their tendency of robbing the host countries of their resources and labor power. It also not surprising that while carrying out these robbery, they also go ahead and engage in various modes of strategic management that increase the dependency of these host countries on their continued presence. So the game becomes we rob you and make you depend on our being here for your survival. As a result the cycle never ends. 

Organizations as Flux and Transformation 

The organizations as flux and transformation metaphor highlight the logic of change. Perceiving organizations in this manner encompasses three main areas of complexity, chaos, and paradox. This perception of organizations sees them as part of the environment and not just as a distinct from it. Morgan points out that as a consequence, organizations should not be viewed as separate from the system but rather they should be perceived as part of the ebb and flow of the entire environment. This metaphor thus provides information on how change happens in a turbulent world. Other important concepts that this metaphor covers include autopoiesis, logic of mutual causality. 

This metaphor can be described as a strange one and also not very straight forward. I have personally struggled with comprehending it. Nonetheless, despite its complexities, there are a number of concepts I find to be essential for managers of organizations to know about. For example, the belief that order always emerges out of chaos is an encouraging concept. In organizations there a number of changes that can take place creating a lot of chaos. This chaotic environment causes many managers to fall into a panic. Though this is a completely normal response to the situation, it is best to have the patience to see what will emerge after the chaos. 

The concept of autopoiesis with regards to this metaphor has appealed to my interest as a result of its explanation of the nature of organizations and their relationship with the environment. According to Morgan the author of this metaphor, autopoiesis is a consideration of how organizations manage change. This is usually based on how organizations see and perceive themselves. This has caused the traditional assumption about organizations being open systems which constantly interact with the environment to be disregarded with various authors. In its place the notion that organizations are all living systems has replaced it. What this really says is that organizations tend to fail to understand that they are actually more than what they think they are. I can say that this concept is a good way for organizations to develop a capacity for self-reflection. This capacity will allow them to develop new identities that will be more aware about their systemic relationships.  

The chaos and complexity concept of this metaphor is quite overwhelming especially if it is to be used to manage organizations due to their complex nature. Despite this, I still find it to be useful. Thus in its utilizations I feel that managers should consider their roles from a view point of every initiative undertaken is systematic exploration that will result into a learning activity for the organization. Also I also feel that it is significant for managers with respect to this concept to be always aware of various boundary issues. This will be useful in enhancing their skills of managing issues that are ambiguous in nature, various pressures and paradoxes, and uncertainties that arise in the organization. Further, I believe that in this chaos and complexity concept there is need to get rid of the many old models that call for a hierarchy mode of operating in an organization. 


I have gained a lot of insight and learnt a lot from the above metaphors and from the class discussions we have had about them. For instance, the metaphor of organizations as psychic prisons has taught to understand that it is not just the organization that is imprisoned by its favored way of thinking, but rather it is the individual staff, you and me that develop this kind of thinking which results in the overall imprisonment of the organization. I have also equally learnt the level of exploitation and oppression that organizations have exerted on their employees although it has been swept under the rug by many organizations. There is actually a need for change to take place and I believe it is up to the oppressed staff to stand up for themselves. I have also learnt that the transformation and flux metaphor is essential in helping an organization in looking at change in a logic manner. For this reason, organizations are cautioned against just responding to change but rather they should first solve why the change is happening and understand the factors that are causing it. 

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Nov 12, 2019 in Psychology Essay Samples