Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Working Together: Belief Systems of Individuals and Organizations

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Working Together: Belief Systems of Individuals and Organizations

Article excerpt

Individuals and organizations establish and maintain relationships to fulfill their needs and goals. When their expectations are met, their relationship is mutually beneficial. However, throughout their dynamic career development cycle belief systems may diverge and result in workplace issues. This article emphasizes the need to recognize the cognitive component in developing programs to reduce individual/organizational problems. Conflicting and incompatible belief systems are described, and a rational-emotive approach is recommended for identifying and modifying the unrealistic, rigidly maintained beliefs in the individual/organizational relationship.

A dynamic career cycle occurs for both the individual and the organization (Schein, 1978). Initially, individuals seek jobs and organizations seek employees. It is fortunate when a desire for a match is mutual. While undesirable external factors such as recession or illness result in layoffs and retirement, patterns of short-lived individual/organizational (I/O) relationships are often the case under apparently neutral conditions. Some organizations develop, grow, and maintain their successful existence for decades, while others collapse after a brief presence. Although current economic conditions are changing the pattern, many employees have remained with the same company from their first job assignment through retirement. During all types of economic circumstances, others have continued to develop a sporadic job history. The fact that individuals separate from their place of employment and organizations terminate their employees may be the result of an unhealthy match, or preferably from a healthy relationship which reflects the mutual growth and development of individuals and their organizations.

INDIVIDUAL/ORGANIZATIONAL RELATIONSHIP ISSUES

Over the years, I have counseled individuals with job-related issues from all levels of the organizational hierarchy and have found that their problems were similar to those presented in marital and family counseling sessions. Partners usually seek counseling when their expectations of having certain needs fulfilled through the relationship have not been met and communication skills to resolve the conflicts are poor (Bornstein & Bornstein, 1986; DiGiuseppe & Zeeve, 1985). Often, when one partner's needs are fulfilled through the relationship, the desire to seek help by that individual is minimal. Many organizations maintain a bureaucratic and cognitive structure which reflects the belief that problems are caused by individuals' failure to comply with company expectations. Problem resolution is perceived to result from setting firmer rules and regulations to be followed by individuals. The struggle for power and control is to a large extent determined by the extreme demanding style of thinking maintained by individuals and organizations. Even those lower in the organizational hierarchy may behave in a manner which reflects a need for power and control. As in marriage, when either party demands that the other obey, disregarding the belief system of the other, the relationship will be of short duration or exist on a pathological level.

Similar to human beings, organizations experience a developmental life cycle (Miller, 1989; Schein, 1978). While organizations are not human beings, they can function as human systems, consisting of individual members, and exhibiting attitudes, behaviors, and a personality as they grow, develop, or decline (Adizes, 1988). Since individuals and organizations interact on acognitive, behavioral, and emotional level, regardless of the established hierarchy, the often neglected cognitive component provides important information for modifying the nonproductive behavioral and emotional consequences in the I/O relationship. For purposes of this article, the term "individual" will constitute employees at any level in the organization who report to those with greater power and be used interchangeably with the term "employees. …

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