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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.

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Journal of Management & Organization
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