Human Relations

, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 745–773

What's Playing in the Organizational Theater? Collusive Relationships in Management

  • Manfred F. R. Kets De Vries

DOI: 10.1023/A:1016942415669

Cite this article as:
De Vries, M.F.R.K. Human Relations (1999) 52: 745. doi:10.1023/A:1016942415669


This article takes as its point of departureconcepts derived from couple therapy to betterunderstand collusive relationships in organizations. Aswe examine these dysfunctional workplace relationships— these interpersonal “gridlocks” —four main types of collusive superior subordinateinteraction patterns are identified — thenarcissistic, the controlling, the paranoid, and thesadomasochistic — and the consequences of each such dyad in organizationsare explored. In conclusion, the paper presents a numberof recommendations on how to recognize the presence ofsuch collusive arrangements (taking leadership behavior as a point of departure) and suggestspreventive steps that can be taken.

superior-subordinate relationshipleadership behaviorprojective identificationnarcissistic collusioncontrolling collusionparanoid collusionsadomasochistic collusionfolie a deuxtransferenceidentification with the aggressor

Copyright information

© The Tavistock Institute 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred F. R. Kets De Vries
    • 1
  1. 1.Raoul de Vitry d'Avaucourt Professor of Human Resource ManagementINSEADFontainebleauFrance
  2. 2.INSEADFontainebleau, CedexFrance