The unresourceful organisation: the Persistence of 'Group Helplessness' in the workplace

  • Jennifer Knight

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This dissertation is about how an organisation can get 'stuck' in an unresourceful state. It is based on research that focused on an organisation delivering important public services, including housing, education and public safety. The organisation's clientele covers all groups in the local region including the most vulnerable and those most at risk. Underperformance by such an organisation is of great significance to those who rely on its services. The main aim of the research was to explore the nature of the organisation's apparent inability to escape this state. The research comprised a single case study with 50 research interviews with people working in the organisation. On average, each interview lasted an hour. A feature of the methodology was an approach to interviewing most commonly used for therapeutic purposes in 'neurolinguistic programming'; this approach enabled critical questioning within the interviews. The research found that employees felt helpless to change the situation yet were able to maintain their self-esteem intact; moreover this state was being transferred to new employees. The main outcome of the research was the development of a model embodying a particular form of learned helplessness that is applicable to whole organisations. The model explains the persistence of 'group-helplessness' over time.
Date of AwardFeb 2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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