Lateral Authority

Lateral Authority

Exploring Lateral Relations at Work — a talk by Petros Oratis


Wednesday 19 July 2023, 1pm — 2.30pm

In the last decades, there has been an increased demand for role-holders at work to collaborate laterally, without hierarchal mediation, where the use of formal role authority is insufficient and roles need to be negotiated laterally.

Psychoanalytic and Systems-psychodynamic thinking, increasingly put on the map ‘the lateral axis’ of work, organizations, and societies. But when one attempts to define what lateral relations are, in order to study them, one will be very quickly confronted with their highly disputed and illusive nature. Role-holders might perceive, that for as long as roles are not formally authorised by the hierarchal line, lateral interactions are ‘illegitimate’, and a manifestation of organizational politics and power fights.

Could this perception be functioning more as a defence against their challenging dynamics so as to avoid them? If the ambiguous contexts of contemporary organizations create role vagueness, that the vertical axis cannot always resolve, how do we deal with inner images of sibling rivalry and of existential survival?

This talk is based on Petros Oratis’s doctoral research at the Tavistock & Portman (D10D), and aims to explore both how lateral dynamics manifest themselves, the innate instinct on the lateral axis to construct (often artificially) hierarchy, and the destructive power dynamics developed between role-holders, often involuntary yet perpetuating.

Finally, the talk raises some definitional challenges, for scholars and practitioners, about verticality and laterality in work relations, which perhaps have been abidingly central to systems-psychodynamic and group-relations thinking since their very origin.

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