n South African Journal of Labour Relations - A systems psychodynamic exploration of diversity management : the experiences of the client and the consultant

Volume 31, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



South Africa's diverse work force offers many challenges for employees as well as organisational development consultants. Since the first democratic election in 1994, organisations have implemented diversity management programmes with the object of building bridges between employees from different cultures and addressing conflict in the workplace. This study focused on diversity management programmes presented from a systems psychodynamic consulting stance, using group relations training methodology. The aim of the study was to gain an understanding of the systems psychodynamic manifestations experienced during diversity management workshops as a microcosm of the organisation, as well as the experiences of the consultant to these workshops. Sixty-minute unstructured individual interviews were conducted with eleven consultants, who explored their experiences of employees' diversity issues as well as their experiences in their consultant role. Discourse analysis was done, applying the systems psychodynamic interpretive stance. The manifesting themes indicate how South African employees are obsessed with their split identity; how the anxiety around primary and secondary diversity dimensions is causing projection and projective identification, transference and countertransference, and how containment becomes difficult in organisations with high levels of anxiety around difference. Recommendations are offered towards optimising diversity consultations.

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