Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Detecting and responding constructively to transference in the workplace

  • Seth David Bernstein (a1)

Both managers and the staff they supervise bring unconscious and unresolved personal issues into their relationships in the workplace. This phenomenon is called ‘transference’. Transference generally interferes with the positive working relationships that are essential to achieving organizational objectives. This article provides a conceptual framework for differentiating transference from other complex emotional interactions that can occur in the workplace as well as a set of clear action steps for how the manager can respond to transference constructively. Examples of both staff and manager transference are presented to illustrate how managers can detect and then respond effectively to transference. It is noted that managers are not psychotherapists; knowledge about transference should therefore be used with caution. It is a manager's job is to help staff to succeed with their work, not to help them resolve personal problems.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

C. Daus , N. Ashkanasy (2005). The case for the ability-based model of emotional intelligence in organizational behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 453466.

M. Diamond , S. Allcorn (2003). The cornerstone of psychoanalytic organizational analysis: Psychological reality, transference and counter-transference in the workplace. Human Relations, 56(4), 491514.

V. Felitti , R. Anda , D. Nordenberg , D. Williamson , A. Spitz , V. Edwards , … J. Marks (1998, May). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245258.

S. Fineman (2004). Getting the measure of emotion – The cautionary tale of emotional intelligence. Human Relations, 57(6), 719740.

J. M. George (2000). Emotional and leadership: The role of emotional intelligence. Human Relations, 53, 10271055.

J. Gordon , K. Whelan-Berry , E. Hamilton (2007, October). The relationship among work-family conflict and enhancement, organizational work-family culture, and work outcomes for older working women. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(4), 350364.

P. Jordan , A. Troth (2004). Managing emotions during team problem solving: Emotional intelligence and conflict resolution. Human Performance, 17(2), 195218.

P. Jordan , A. Troth (2006, September). Emotions and coping with conflict: An introduction. Journal of Management & Organization, 12(2), 98100.

E. Locke (2005). Why emotional intelligence is an invalid concept. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 425431doi:10.1002/job.318

S. Parker , H. Williams , N. Turner (2006, May). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 636652.

C. Pinder , L. Moore (Eds.). (1980) Middle range theory and the study of organizations. Boston, MA: Martinus Nijhoff.

C. Praides , M. Pratt (2010, August). Conceptualization of group ambivalence. Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings.

A. Rafaeli , R. I. Sutton (1987). Expression of emotion as part of the work role. Academy of Management Review, 12, 2337.

C. Pinder , L. Moore (1979). The Resurrection of Taxonomy to Aid the Development of Middle Range Theories of Organizational Behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 99118.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Management & Organization
  • ISSN: 1833-3672
  • EISSN: 1839-3527
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-management-and-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 161 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.