Transference: it’s a phenomenon that is characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood”. To frame his discussion of transference, Dr. Perrodin explores the article The Different Faces of Transference written by Michael Maccoby which appeared in Harvard Business Review in 2004. While the article is dated, the perspectives of the author are helpful in bringing understanding to how transference has changed from the workforce of 2004 to the workforce of 2017.

 

POSITIVE TRANSFERENCE

Positive Transference is when an employee sees a leader as better than he/she is. This is especially evident in leaders that present as very charismatic or “parent-like”. Leaders can very easily come undone by their followers’ positive transference projection. It’s remarkable how often even reasonably self-aware leaders will become victims of illusion. Most mindful leaders don’t buy into their followers idealized images of them as they have member checks, and practice introspection and reflection.

OUR LADY OF ANGELS SCHOOL FIRE EXAMPLE

On December 1, 1958, a fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, Illinois.  The teachers had looked in vain for the school principal before deciding to act on their own to vacate the school. Unknown to them, the principal was in the other wing, covering a class for an absent teacher.

IMPACT OF ORGANIZATION STRESS

Per Maccoby, the transference dynamic is most likely to get out of control during periods of organization stress. In such situations, followers tend to be more dominated by irrational feelings – in particular the need for praise & protection from all powerful parents. The article identifies doubt and stress as triggers for transference.

STUNNING FINDINGS FROM CLINICAL STUDIES ON ANTIDEPRESSANTS

Clinical studies show, for example, that up to 33% of people respond as well to placebos as to antidepressants. People “hope” for a cure and therefore respond to the placebo.

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9/11 LOWER MANHATTAN BOAT RESCUE DUE TO TRANSFERENCE?

This show has relevance to crisis response – especially the 9/11 boat rescue.  I’ve deduced that the block-long depth of people lined up at the harbor shore held hope and transference that the Coast Guard / Navy were coordinating a rescue. Once they had that mindset, they were orderly and it wasn’t a devastating mob rush to get to the front of the lines.

JACK WELCH AS GE CEO FROM 1981-2001 EMBODIED TRANSFERENCE PSYCHOLOGY

During Jack Welch’s reign as CEO of GE from 1981-2001, Mr. Maccoby felt that employees transferred childhood feelings onto Jack Welch, even though they had never met him.

COUNTERTRANSFERENCE

This is when a follower projects his past experiences onto his leader, the leader responds by projecting his/her past experiences back onto the follower. Freud called this phenomena counter-transference and it occurs from a subconscious level.

ADVICE

David provides strategies to increase detection of being the author or recipient of transference as it is vital that one knows when he or she is being influenced by transference as it can have monumental impacts of personal well-being.

FOLLOW

David will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails.  The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD.