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Title: A checklist to facilitate cultural awareness and sensitivity.
Author(s): Seibert, P. S.
Stridh-Igo, P.
Zimmerman, C. G.
Source: Journal of Medical Ethics; Jun2002, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p143, 4p
Document Type: Article
Subject(s): HEALTH services administration
PATIENTS -- Management
MEDICAL ethics
Abstract: United States of America demographic profiles illustrate a nation rich in cultural and racial diversity. Approximately 29% of the population are minorities and demographic projections indicate an increase to 50% by the year 2050. This creates a highly mobile and constantly changing environment, revealing the need for new levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity. These issues are particularly critical in the medical community where medical professionals must understand the impact cultural differences and barriers can have on evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation. During times of stress, such as when injury strikes, problems associated with lack of cultural sensitivity are intensified. Cultural diversity is of particular concern when standard measures for diagnosis and prognosis are derived from established norms for responding, because culture defines norms. This paper details a ten point checklist designed to facilitate cultural awareness and sensitivity in medical settings to ensure maximum successful recovery and outcomes for all patients. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Full Text Word Count: 4103
ISSN: 03066800
Accession Number: 6864545
Persistent Link to this Article: http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=6864545&db=aph
Database: Academic Search Premier
* * *
Section: ORIGINAL ARTICLE
A CHECKLIST TO FACILITATE CULTURAL AWARENESS AND SENSITIVITY


Contents
ILLUSTRATIVE CASE STUDIES SUPPORTING THE NEED FOR CULTURAL SENSITIVITY
CONSTRUCTING THE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND AWARENESS CHECKLIST
THE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND AWARENESS CHECKLIST
1. Communication method: Identify the patient's preferred method of communication. Make necessary arrangements if translators are needed.
2. Language barriers: Identify potential language barriers (verbal and nonverbal). List possible compensations.
3. Cultural identification: Identify the patient's culture. Contact your organisation's culturally specific support team (CSST) for assistance.
4. Comprehension: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family comprehend the situation at hand?
5. Beliefs: Identify religious/spiritual beliefs. Make appropriate support contacts.
6. Trust: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family appear to trust the caregivers? Remember to watch for both verbal and non-verbal cues. If not, seek advice from the CSST.
7. Recovery: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family have misconceptions or unrealistic views about the caregivers, treatment, or recovery process? Make necessary adjustments.
8. Diet: Address culture-specific dietary considerations.
9. Assessments: Conduct assessments with cultural sensitivity in mind. Watch for inaccuracies.
10. Health care provider bias: We have biases and prejudices. Examine and recognise yours.
DISCUSSION
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Table 1 Illustrative case studies
Table 2 Cultural sensitivity and awareness checklist
REFERENCES

United States of America demographic profiles illustrate a nation rich in cultural and racial diversity. Approximately 29% of the population are minorities and demographic projections indicate an increase to 50% by the year 2050. This creates a highly mobile and constantly changing environment, revealing the need for new levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity. These issues are particularly critical in the medical community where medical professionals must understand the impact cultural differences and barriers can have on evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation. During times of stress, such as when injury strikes, problems associated with lack of cultural sensitivity are intensified. Cultural diversity is of particular concern when standard measures for diagnosis and prognosis are derived from established norms for responding, because culture defines norms. This paper details a ten point checklist designed to facilitate cultural awareness and sensitivity in medical settings to ensure maximum successful recovery and outcomes for all patients.

Cultural belief systems interact with all aspects of information processing. Indeed, culture provides the foundation for schemata used to process memories, form personality expression, and determine appropriate reactions to environmental stimuli. Thus, it is not surprising that culture also plays an integral role in the recovery process. "Culture is an organized group of learned responses, a system of ready-made solutions to the problems people face that is learned through interactions with others in society."(n1) Thus, it is essential to consider culture's role when designing the best possible recovery programme. Like Amodeo and Jones, we agree that "culture shapes responses to illness and treatment".(n2) These responses guide the level and progress of recovery. Knowledge of the patient's culture and sensitivity to its basic premises is imperative for quality treatment and recovery.

Cultural sensitivity for those working in health care can be viewed as being "sensitive to the ways in which community members' values and perceptions about health care differ from his or her own".(n3) With the world population continually growing and the percentage of minorities steadily increasing, the importance of cultural sensitivity is in critical need of attention. Future doctors and nurses are currently being trained in the subject of diversity.(n4) Yet, this diversity training is equally important for current practitioners. Gany and Thiel de Bocanegra emphasise that "even brief training in cultural sensitivity can improve continuity of care and patient satisfaction".(n5)

Transcultural nursing is becoming better known among practitioners every day.(n6) Though not without debate, attention has turned to the need for something more than the traditional Eurocentric physician-patient role many know. With the current emphasis on best-practice models and outcomes, research has revealed that there is more to recovery than simply providing a one-size-fits-all plan of care.(n7) "Without understanding the cultural context on which the client builds his/her understandings of information, the managed care process will not succeed."(n8)

Another term, culturally competent health care, requires that the health professional be sensitive to the differences between groups, to the differences in outward behaviour, and also to the attitudes and meanings attached to emotional events such as depression, pain, and disability.(n9) This model is used to improve the quality of care by recognising culture's influence.

A person's culture and ethnicity determine how he/she perceives the world and its contents. Growth and development in a certain atmosphere set the stage for the values and beliefs someone will have throughout his or her life. These different environments give each person a unique "web". As used by Swendson and Windsor, the term webs of significance means each person has his/her own web in "which the everyday lives of individuals are embedded".(n10) Within this web are the reasons people interpret the world differently and assign meaning to events and ideas that others would not. This web contributes to who people are as individuals. Not only does it consist of having a particular type of hair, eye shape, and skin colour, but includes experiences such as being comforted and feeling secure.

Labeling and generalising those who are different, based on global and ignorant stereotypes are major contributors to the problem of being culturally uneducated. One could argue that labelling assists in grouping people for sampling or organising, but when considering a person as an individual, it is inaccurate and largely unfair. We were recently amused to hear a person who had enrolled in a workshop focused on American Indian culture say that she was "going to learn about how Indians think". The world would be very simple indeed if a person could attend a single workshop and miraculously learn how all members of a particular group think. We are not suggesting that knowing something about a particular culture would result in knowing all about how a member of that culture thinks. Instead, we are encouraging health care providers to look more deeply at, and be more sensitive to, the range of factors that play a role in the recovery process.

Achieving cultural education is a team effort. Members of particular cultures and ethnic groups must be willing to share information while practising a great deal of patience. The patient and associated family members need to be encouraged to help educate their caregivers and vice versa. As an added bonus, the role of educator will assist in actively involving the patient and family in the recovery process while helping ameliorate the fear of the unknown, which can play an adverse role in recovery. Education may also help stabilise the patient's support group to better assist in the recovery process.

ILLUSTRATIVE CASE STUDIES SUPPORTING THE NEED FOR CULTURAL SENSITIVITY

Like many others in the health care field, we paid little attention to patients' cultural background until we experienced two cases which profoundly emphasised the need for cultural awareness and sensitivity. Both involved severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) where the patients were initially unable to speak for themselves as they were in comatose states.

One case was that of a member of the Shoshone Paiute tribe. This woman, "M", was involved in a serious automobile accident in which she sustained a TBI leaving her comatose. She had no visitors during her first two weeks in the intensive care unit (ICU). Little was known about her background. "M" seemed to be recovering from her injuries, but did not respond in any way to environmental stimulation or attempts to assess her level of consciousness. She appeared comatose despite brain images revealing no damage accounting for her continued comatose state. Near the end of her third week in ICU, "M's" mother and aunt visited. We learned that "M" came from a very traditional family, lived on a reservation, and had an abysmal view of "whites". We arduously formed a relationship with the aunt and mother, which led to the family asking permission to perform a water ceremony to facilitate "M's" recovery. We encouraged them to do so and "M's" mother graciously invited one of our authors to observe the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, "M", in her native language, thanked her family for providing the ceremony. Needless to say, we were very surprised to hear "M" speak and to learn that she had not been in the comatose state traditional assessments indicated. She had been using an altered state of consciousness, induced by a counting technique, to prevent responding to the caregivers. Standard assessment procedures had failed to ascertain "M's" level of consciousness. "M's" views of whom she considered her enemies interfered with obtaining the best possible care. Once we understood "M's" perspective, we were able to better facilitate her recovery. By involving her family in the process, we provided a buffer for "M's" emotional reactions to our non-Native American staff. It is important to note that our goal was to provide the best possible health care--not to change "M's" worldview. Despite good intentions, many lose sight of the goals at hand in favour of attempting to change a person's perspective. We strongly recommend keeping these goals in clear focus. As with this case, we did not concern ourselves with trying to convince "M" to change her view of her perceived enemy. Instead, we maintained focus on providing her with the best possible health care.

Another case illustrating the importance of considering the powerful effects of culture was that of a Mexican migrant farm worker, "J", who sustained a severe TBI at work. His family was in Mexico and he spoke and understood only a very rural Spanish dialect. He had no visitors and his recovery was not progressing at an appropriate rate. "J" appeared uninterested in recovering; he made no effort to communicate or participate in the recovery process. In fact, he physically turned away from those who attempted to help him. As "J" appeared to wither away, his prognosis seemed increasingly grim. When "J's" father was finally able to visit, six weeks after the injury, we learned that "J" believed in traditional Mexican healing practices and was convinced that he would not recover without them. With the encouragement of his father, aided by curanderismo, folk healing that works at material, spiritual, and mental or levels,(n11) "J's" recovery was achieved.

We believe these two cases are not particularly exceptional but instead represent a vast area of need. While discussing this issue, Ms Nakagawa, a member of our research team who is from Japan, further emphasised the need for cross-cultural awareness by describing issues important for understanding her culture.(n12) She noted that Japanese people are potentially more shy and less expressive than many in the USA. Ms Nakagawa explained that growing up in a Japanese group-oriented society and educational system often carries with it the idea that being too expressive is impolite and conveys too much non-conformity. She pointed out that if hospitalised in the USA, Japanese patients and associated family would likely feel very shy and anxious when trying to express themselves in English. She further explained that despite most Japanese learning English in school, they have difficulty communicating in English because the English courses are grammar-oriented and there is a lack of opportunity to interact with native English speakers. Having resided in the USA for three and a half years, Ms Nakagawa expressed concern that many people she had encountered did not have the patience to listen to, or did not try to understand, foreign language speakers. She explained that this kind of experience has further increased her level of shyness and decreased her confidence in expressing herself in English. Clearly, these problems would be intensified in a medical setting where life and death decisions are required.

We recognise that it is neither possible nor necessary for health care providers to know every detail about every patient. We are convinced, however, that heightened cultural sensitivity and awareness can advance best treatment modalities for all concerned. Accordingly, we developed, tested, and refined a checklist to facilitate this process.

CONSTRUCTING THE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND AWARENESS CHECKLIST

We began by assembling a team who had expertise in the area of culture and culture-specific healing practices. Based upon this combined expertise and with the assistance of relevant literature, we derived a list of critical factors. The next step involved circulating the list in various ethnic communities for comment. We refined the list again, and then tested it by applying it to patient cases in a regional medical centre. In addition, one of our authors presented the checklist at an international health care conference and solicited comments. A theme encountered at each level of analysis is that communication is the essential foundation for any type of educational advancement. This is particularly critical in health care settings where stress frequently intensifies the need for clear communication. Patients and family members must understand treatment options and recommendations along with what is required of them to comply with the treatment plan. Otherwise, the best possible outcomes cannot be realised.(n13) Accordingly, multidimensional communication is the vital thread for our checklist.

THE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND AWARENESS CHECKLIST

1. Communication method: Identify the patient's preferred method of communication. Make necessary arrangements if translators are needed.

Miscommunication occurs frequently between health care professionals and patients,(n14) a problem that is intensified by language barriers. About 14% of the USA population do not speak English at home.(n15) Of the people who speak a language other than English at home, 47% say they have difficulty speaking English.(n16) Assuring information is conveyed and received as intended must consistently be a top priority. Translators are commonly utilised in the health care profession. A potential problem associated with use of translators is," ... that respondents often experienced communication as one-way rather than two-way".(n17) Care should be taken to compensate for this effect. The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service (BIRS) recommends" ... a continual two-way process of sharing information, hopes and fears. It involves the continual checking of how the other person has heard or understood what has been said."(n17) Considering dialects in addition to basic language types whenever possible is essential. Understanding "a little" is not adequate for communication as important as that which occurs in medical settings.

2. Language barriers: Identify potential language barriers (verbal and nonverbal). List possible compensations.

Non-verbal communication plays an essential role when people are exchanging information.(n18) Like the old adage indicates: you cannot, not communicate. Communication experts routinely emphasise the significance of understanding the intricacies of non-verbal communication. Most of what we understand is conveyed by non-verbal cues--it is not what we say but how we say it. All of us use these cues to aid clarification during complicated situations. We should all learn how we convey information non-verbally to avoid expressing personal biases.

3. Cultural identification: Identify the patient's culture. Contact your organisation's culturally specific support team (CSST) for assistance.

If your organisation does not already have one, form a culturally specific support team. The CSST is composed of people who are able to represent various cultures and ethnic groups, preferably people who are actually members of the specific groups. This is not always possible, and when it is not, the next best thing is to have someone who is familiar with and sensitive to the culture or ethnic group and its customs. This group's role is to help educate caregivers about the target culture's customs and possible associated needs that will play a role in recovery. For example, a culture's beliefs about modesty and dress may need to be addressed throughout the recovery process. Many Asian and Muslim women may feel uncomfortable wearing hospital attire.(n19) The CSST can assist health care professionals in finding alternative ways to respect people's modesty and cultural beliefs. The CSST also helps to ensure understanding in essential interactions with patients and families. The CSST collects and provides information about community resources that might be useful for a particular culture or ethnic group's needs. Translators are usually an integral part of this team. Education is another important CSST role. Education can help reduce prejudice that could interfere with optimum health care. Remember to consider potential healing practices such as curanderismo and ethnic healing ceremonies when appropriate.

4. Comprehension: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family comprehend the situation at hand?

Remember, nodding and indicating some type of affirmative response does not necessarily guarantee understanding has been achieved. Re-explaining is useful and facilitates comprehension, particularly during times of stress. Effective communication launches effective care. One useful technique is to gently ask the patient or family member to convey the information, in his/her own words, before concluding that he/she understands.(n20)

5. Beliefs: Identify religious/spiritual beliefs. Make appropriate support contacts.

Religious/spiritual beliefs play an important and powerful role in recovery. We found in our study of superior recovery that religion/spirituality is one of the characteristics that contributes to a successful recovery.(n21) Patients and families often attribute successful recovery, as well as survival, to these types of beliefs.(n22) Contact community resources appropriate for the identified belief system.

6. Trust: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family appear to trust the caregivers? Remember to watch for both verbal and non-verbal cues. If not, seek advice from the CSST.

A study by the brain injury rehabilitation unit (BIRU) at Liverpool Hospital in Australia found that "good communication leading to the establishment of trust"(n17) seemed to be more important to the participants than the expertise of the professional. "A good professional is one you can trust."(n17) Lack of trust can impede achieving the best possible outcomes because the patient and family might withhold essential health-related information. Another trust-related impediment occurs when patients and families fail to follow crucial instructions or do not believe recovery can be achieved.

7. Recovery: Double-check: Does the patient and/or family have misconceptions or unrealistic views about the caregivers, treatment, or recovery process? Make necessary adjustments.

Give those involved enough time to process information received and to gain familiarity with the situation. Later, allow more time to for any questions that will help clarify the circumstances. Patients and their families routinely experience misconceptions or form unrealistic expectations that can impair the ability to make the wisest decisions. Help guide appropriate conceptions.

8. Diet: Address culture-specific dietary considerations.

Certain cultures and ethnic groups include very specific dietary regulations. As nutritionists have long stressed, appropriate nutrition is vital to optimum recovery. Simple dietary modifications can be made that will respond to these needs. As an added bonus, this action will convey respect for the particular culture or ethnic group, thus raising comfort level and trust.

9. Assessments: Conduct assessments with cultural sensitivity in mind. Watch for inaccuracies.

Be aware of potential differences in culturally accepted emotional expression and verbalisations of private information. For cognitive assessments, tests must be analysed to identify culturally specific questions and modified accordingly. Even subtle differences can profoundly influence assessments. Ask the CSST to review both medical and cognitive assessment practices.

10. Health care provider bias: We have biases and prejudices. Examine and recognise yours.

It is a fact of life that prejudice and bias exist. Those who deny it are most afflicted. Identifying and recognising this will help control its expression. To accomplish cultural awareness effectively "the health care professional must first understand his or her own cultural background and explore possible biases or prejudices toward other cultures".(n23) Upon close examination of prejudice, bias, and their sources, it appears that fear is the foundation. Work to overcome these fears; education will facilitate the process.

DISCUSSION

As illustrated by the cases we encountered and the broad scope of the checklist, cultural sensitivity and awareness is a multifaceted undertaking. The primary theme revealed throughout our findings is, however, the significance of effective communication. Remembering that verbal language is only one component of communication is vital. Attention to body language is equally imperative. Another dilemma we encountered was the common, almost automatic, approach of attempting to change the patient's perspective instead of focusing on the goal at hand--expediting recovery by altering care to accommodate the patient's needs. We are not suggesting that health care professionals be well versed in every aspect of every culture, as this would be an impossible task. Instead we are emphasising the critical need to understand that cultural differences play an integral role in the recovery process. Our goal in creating the checklist is to facilitate the process of cultural sensitivity and awareness and thus advance the best possible outcomes for all patients.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The authors would like to express their appreciation to the following Boise State University students who contributed their perspectives to help expand the scope of this project: Sal Trejo Leal, Andrea Webb, Tera Holder, Joanne Hash, and Hazuki Nakagawa. We would also like to thank Jean Basom of the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for her support and encouragement.

Correspondence to: Dr P S Seibert, Idaho Neurological Institute at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, 1055 North Curtis Road, Boise, ID 83706, USA; pseiber@boisestate.edu

Table 1 Illustrative case studies

"M"

Native American woman injured in an automobile accident.

Did not respond to environmental stimulation; appeared comatose.

Family performed a water ceremony to facilitate recovery.

Caregivers learned she viewed non-Native Americans as her enemies, thus she used an altered state of consciousness to prevent response to caregivers.

"J"

Mexican migrant farm worker injured at work.

Family lived in Mexico, and he only spoke and understood a rural Spanish dialect.

He had no visitors; recovery was not progressing.

When his father was able to visit, caregivers learned that "J" believed in traditional Mexican healing practices and was certain he would not recover without them.

Table 2 Cultural sensitivity and awareness checklist

Legend for Chart:

A - Focus
B - Instructions

      A                                   B

1. Communication method         Identify the patient's preferred
                                method of communication. Make
                                necessary arrangements if
                                translators are needed.

2. Language barriers            Identify potential language
                                barriers (verbal and
                                non-verbal). List
                                possible compensations.

3. Cultural identification      Identify the patient's culture.
                                Contact your organisation's
                                culturally specific support
                                team (CSST) for assistance.

4. Comprehension                Double-check: Does the patient
                                and/or family comprehend the
                                situation at hand?

5. Beliefs                      Identify religious/spiritual
                                beliefs. Make appropriate
                                support contacts.

6. Trust                        Double-check: Does the patient
                                and/or family appear to trust
                                the caregivers? Remember to
                                watch for both verbal and
                                non-verbal cues. If not,
                                seek advice from the CSST.

7. Recovery                     Double-check: Does the patient
                                and/or family have
                                misconceptions or unrealistic
                                views about the caregivers,
                                treatment, or recovery
                                process? Make necessary
                                adjustments.

8. Diet                         Address culture-specific
                                dietary considerations.

9. Assessments                  Conduct assessments with
                                cultural sensitivity in mind.
                                Watch for inaccuracies.

10. Health care provider bias   Always remember, we all have
                                biases and prejudices. Examine
                                and recognise yours.

REFERENCES

(n1) Amodeo M, Jones LK. Viewing alcohol and other drug use cross culturally: a cultural framework for clinical practice. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services 1997;78:240-54.

(n2) See reference 1: 242.

(n3) Goicoechea-Balbona A. Culturally specific health care model for ensuring health care use by rural, ethnically diverse families affected by HIV/AIDS. Health & Social Work. 1997;22:172-80.

(n4) Zweifler J, Gonzalez AM. Teaching residents to care for culturally diverse populations. Academic Medicine 1998;73:1056-61.

(n5) Gany F, Thiel de Bocanegra H. Maternal-child immigrant health training: changing knowledge and attitudes to improve health care delivery. Patient Education and Counseling. 1996;27:23-31.

(n6) Leininger MM. Transcultural nursing as a global care humanizer, diversifier, and unifier. Hoitotiede 1997;9:219-25.

(n7) Seibert PS, Trejo Leal S, Zimmerman CG, et al. The importance of communication and cultural awareness when treating TBI patients: cultural sensitivity checklist. Poster presented at: 3rd World Congress on Brain Injury: The Search for Solutions. Quebec, Canada: 1999 Jun 12-17.

(n8) Kalnins ZP. Cultural diversity and today's managed health care. Journal of Cultural Diversity 1997;4:43.

(n9) Gonzalez-Calvo J, Gonzalez VM, Lorig K. Cultural diversity issues in the development of valid and reliable measures of health status. Arthritis Care and Research. 1997;10:448-56.

(n10) Swendson C, Windsor C. Rethinking cultural sensitivity. Nursing Inquiry 1996;3:3-10.

(n11) El Alma de la Raza Project. Curanderismo: holistic healing. Denver Public Schools website. Available at: http://almoproject.dpsk12.org/ stories/storyReader$11. Accessed 27 Jul 2001.

(n12) Nakagawa H. Cross cultural issues of a research program including language translations. Paper presented at: Annual Symposium of the Idaho Neurological Institute. Boise, ID: 26 Oct 2000.

(n13) Diversity Rx. Why language and culture are important. Diversity Rx website. Available at: http://www.diversityrx.org/. Accessed 11 Aug 1999.

(n14) Newman J. Managing cultural diversity: The art of communication. Radiologic Technology 1998;69:231-46.

(n15) Diversity Rx. The impact of language barriers on health care and legal protections for limited English speaking patients. Diversity Rx Website. Available at: http://www.diversityrx.org/HTML/LEOVER.htm. Accessed 11 Aug 1999.

(n16) Diversity Rx. Language characteristics and schooling in the United States, a changing picture: 1979 and 1989. Diversity Rx website. Available at: http://www.diversityrx.org/HTML/DEMCHA.htm. Accessed 11 Aug 1999.

(n17) Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service. Variations in the cultural understanding of traumatic brain injury. ATHMN website. Available at: http://ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au/. Accessed 14 Jul 1999.

(n18) See reference 14: 233.

(n19) Queensland government. Guidelines to practice: gender and modesty. Queensland Health website. Available at: http://www.health.qld.gov/.au/hssb/cultdiv/guidel/gender_and_modesty.htm. Accessed 27 Jul 2001.

(n20) See reference 14: 241.

(n21) Seibert PS, Jutzy R, Basom J, et al. A model for superior recovery from severe traumatic brain injury. Poster presented at: 4th World Congress on Brain Injury. Turin, Italy: 5-9 May 2001.

(n22) Seibert PS, Reedy P, Hash J, et al. Quality of life and decisions about acute neurosurgical intervention. Poster presented at: Annual Meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Antonio, TX: Sept 30-4 Oct 2000.

(n23) See reference 14: 235.

Revised version received 21 August 2001

Accepted for publication 5 December 2001

~~~~~~~~

By P. S. Seibert; P. Stridh-Igo and C. G. Zimmerman

 

P S Seibert, Idaho Neurological Institute at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho, and Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA

S P Stridh-Igo, Idaho Neurological Institute at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho, and Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA

C G Zimmerman, Idaho Neurological Institute at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho, USA


Copyright of Journal of Medical Ethics is the property of BMJ Publishing Group and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
Source: Journal of Medical Ethics, Jun2002, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p143, 4p
Item: 6864545
 
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HS817Social Systems

 

Revised 12/13/02

 

Introduction

This course is designed to review basic features and factors of social systems theory as it applies to groups, families, agencies, institutions or corporations, and government entities. It addresses problems inherent in the operation of these systems, as well as suggesting resolution of these problems from a systemic viewpoint. Additionally, the course covers issues of social policy making and decision making that will affect conditions of social change.

Social systems theory posits that social change in day-to-day events often shapes the human experience, whether it is personal or professional. It often occurs within the context of larger systemic processes, and these processes can both transform and conform to changes in the larger society. Social systems theory has a variety of characteristics, including the ability to provide a common language to various professional disciplines. It is recognized that interactions of organizations, groups, communities, and people are integrally related in a "common" system. Depending on one's viewpoint, a social system may be composed of persons, groups, institutions, communities, societies, or cultures. These often interact in a fashion that may influence the social behavior of others. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to help you achieve a better understanding of these phenomena.

Learning Objectives

 

Core Course Objectives:

Mastery of these core course objectives must be demonstrated in the final course completion materials.

Upon completion of this course, I will be able to demonstrate the following outcomes:

To define the historical roots of social systems theories and how they relate to human services.

To analyze and differentiate theories, roles, and methods utilized in a social systems approach to human services delivery.

To compare and contrast the application of social systems theory and its techniques as applied to a wide range of societal issues.

To distinguish the various aspects and defining characteristics of social systems theory.

To develop a research paper on social systems theory that offers application to personal or professional scenarios.

Application Objectives:

In addition to demonstrating mastery of core course content, objectives that address how to apply the theory and research to ones area of expertise or future area of expertise are stated in this section. In the space provided, identify learning objectives that reflect how you the learner will apply the course to your area of professional interest or practice.

Fill in your application objectives here

Course Start / End Time Frames

Directed Study course start dates are submitted to the Registrar by the course Tutor. The start date is the first day of the month following registration of the course by the Tutor. From that date, the course is to be completed in 90 days as per University policy. If an extension for completion of the course is required, contact the Course Tutor to discuss this option. With this in mind, submit the timeframe you anticipate for completion of the course as stated below.

Learning Resources

 

In consultation with the course tutor, an appropriate list of resources is developed in the learning plan recognizing that changes in and expansion of the initial list will take place as the course is developed. The following references are provided as a starting point for your research. To expand your knowledge of the topic, other books, journals or resources that are similar in scope may be substituted. It is emphasized that resources must include no fewer than 10 relevant refereed journal articles. In addition, you may include web-based materials, books, and other reference sources.

Books

American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Edition). Washington, DC: Author.

Anderson, R. E., Carter, I., & Lowe, G. R. (1999). Human behavior in the social environment: A social systems approach. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Anderson, E. (1992). Streetwise: Race, class and change in an urban community. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Bailey, K. D. (1992). Sociology and the new systems theory: Toward a theoretical synthesis. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Fein, M. (1990). Role change: A resocialization perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Haley, A., & Malcolm X (1992). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345376714

Huber, J. (1993). Gender role change in families: A macrosociological view. In T. H. Brubaker (Ed.), Family Relations (pp. 41-58). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Journals

Alinsky, S. (1984). Community analysis and organization. Clinical Sociology Review, 2, 25-34.

Bailey, K. D. (1998). Social ecology and living systems theory. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, pp. 421-433.

Hagedorn, J. M. (1997). Homeboys, new jacks, and anomie. Journal of African American Men, 3(1), 7-28.

Johnson, D. (1986). Using sociology to analyze human and organizational problems: A humanistic perspective to link theory and practice. Clinical Sociology Review, 4, 57-70.

Kassop, M. (1987). Salvador Minuchin: A sociological analysis of his family therapy theory. Clinical Sociology Review, 5, 158-167.

LaPointe, G. (1998). Human nature, humanistic social systems, and design. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 15(3), 193-209.

Porter, E.H. (1987). The parable of the spindle. Clinical Sociology Review, 5, 33-44.

Straussner, S.L.A., & Phillips, N. K. (1999). The impact of job loss on professional and managerial employees and their families. The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 80 (6), 642.

Venkatesh, S. A. (1997). The three-tier model: How helping occurs in urban, poor communities. Social Service Review, 71(4), 574-607.

Yank, M. D., Barber, J.W., & Spradlin, W W. (1994). Mental health treatment teams and leadership: A system model. Behavioral Science, 39, 293-310.

Video

Lee, S. (Director). (1992). Malcolm X. Warner Studios.

 

Documentation of Learning

The following options are examples of ways to demonstrate learning. NOTE: Regardless of the "option" chosen, it is necessary to use appropriate references to the literature to support the position(s) or view(s) taken and to demonstrate the ability to analyze, synthesize and integrate theory and research into the materials that are developed. In the CLP, only include the Option you have selected.

All written materials must conform to APA 5th Edition style and form. It is important to be specific in the learning plan about the topics to be explored and the learning strategies to be followed. If you are submitting a paper, submit a topical or annotated outline with the Course Learning Plan. In general, directed study written materials submitted for course completion range in length from 25 - 30 pages, excluding references. Variation in length and presentation materials should be discussed with the course Tutor.

In the CLP submitted to the course Tutor, identify only the Option you have selected.

Option 1: Research Paper

Prepare a research paper delineating major theories relating to Social Systems based on analysis of the material in this course. Compare and contrast the assumptions and the implications of each broad theory and explain why you accept or reject certain theories. The final paper should demonstrate the ability to think critically and creatively in comparing and contrasting theories. The second part of this option involves application of the course content to an area of particular interest within ones specialization, world of work, or future area of practice.

Option 2: Professional Practice Position Paper

Prepare a position paper that argues for a particular way to apply the theoretical principles of Social Systems and integrate this into an issue or problem in your profession. Address major controversies in the field with reference to this course content subject matter. This may take the form of a journal article submitted for publication or that of papers presented at professional seminars and organizations. Use references to support positions taken, both pro and con. If the paper is to be submitted for publication, review the "Manuscript Submission" guidelines for the publication and develop the material with this in mind.

Option 3: Panel Presentation

Develop and report on a professional panel presentation at a seminar, workshop, or national conference on Social Systems involving at least three major theorists reviewed as learning resources. Include yourself as a major participant in the conference with your own comparison and contrast of alternative points of view. Evidence of scholarly research must be included in the materials submitted and can consist of an appended annotated reference list as well as a comprehensive presentation of materials to be used in such a hypothetical or actual presentation.

Option 4: Original Presentation Format

You are encouraged to devise original methods to present documentation of learning. Included in this option are materials that incorporate media methods of presenting information, non-traditional course completion materials, and other written materials that clearly reflect mastery of course content. Review original format possibilities with the course Tutor prior to submitting the CLP.

 

Option 5: A Case Study

To illustrate the application of course theories, devise three in-depth case studies and analyze the cases from the perspective of the available research regarding the course content. It is suggested that traditional as well as innovative/evolving theories be used. Case studies using real clients must follow ethical guidelines for ensuring confidentiality of client information. Within the case study approach is a requirement to assess and evaluate the efficacy of the method selected.

Outline / Timeline

Append to the CLP the following:

A preliminary outline of the proposed option.

A proposed timeline for completing the course. (Discuss changes in the timeline with the course tutor.)

Contact frequency with tutor while course is being completed.

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Title: GROUP DYNAMICS IN PROJECTS: DON'T FORGET THE SOCIAL ASPECTS.
Author(s): Lovgren, Robin H.
Racer, Michael J.
Source: Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education & Practice; Oct2000, Vol. 126 Issue 4, p156, 10p, 4 charts
Document Type: Article
Subject(s): CIVIL engineering -- Study & teaching
STUDENTS -- Training of
WORK groups
Abstract: Discusses the issues of teamwork, leadership and the difficulties of simultaneously creating a group identity and producing a quality product among students of civil engineering. Information on the required nontechnical skills in the workplace; Critical traits that can be used to characterize a team; Advantages of teamwork.
ISSN: 10523928
Accession Number: 3648467
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HS817 Social Systems

This course is designed to review basic features and factors of social systems theory as it applies to groups, families, agencies, institutions or corporations, and government entities. It addresses problems inherent in the operation of these systems, as well as suggesting resolution of these problems from a systemic viewpoint. Additionally, the course covers issues of social policy-making and decision-making which will affect conditions of social change.

4 credit(s)

Extended Description

Overview of Goals, Requirements and Resources for HS817:

Introduction

Welcome to your Capella University online course, HS817--Social Systems. You will review basic features of social systems theory as applied to groups, families, agencies, institutions or corporations, and government entities. You will address problems inherent in the operation of these systems, as well as suggest resolutions for these problems from a systemic viewpoint. Additionally, you will explore issues of social policy-making and decision-making that affect conditions of social change.

Social change in day-to-day events often shapes human life whether it is personal or professional. Such change often occurs within the context of larger systemic processes. These processes transform and conform to changes in the larger society.

Classical social philosophers like Comte, Spencer, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Parsons derived their understanding of this process by way of macrosociological analysis. Others of the modern era, such as Buckley, Merton, DuBois, and Bailey, utilize a more eclectic approach to this understanding.

Thus, depending on one's viewpoint, a social system may be composed of persons, groups, institutions, communities, societies, or cultures that interact in a fashion that may influence the social behavior of others. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to delve deeply into systemic dynamics inherent in social systems and to guide the application of this understanding to one's profession or discipline.

Learning Goals

The following goals will facilitate your learning in this course:

Goal I. Investigate the historical roots of social systems theory and trace its evolution into a powerful factor impacting the human services field.
Goal II. Evaluate the linkage of social systems theory to the field of human services and especially how theory can help explain phenomena associated with human services practice and how that practice impacts others.
Goal III. Assess how the delivery of human services is affected by the systemic use of theories and their concomitant roles and methods and apply important theoretical techniques to a range of societal problems and issues.
Goal IV. Critique the application of theory in active systems and suggest alternative theoretical positions which may achieve different, yet still desirable, results depending on the system, those affected by the change, and their own cultural ideals and goals.
Goal V. Determine how social systems theory and methodology may be practiced in the real world to motivate and facilitate change by one's self and others in a variety of diverse systems.


Course Outline

The following topics will be analyzed during the eight instructional units in this course.

Unit 1: Thinking About Systems and Systemic Thinking.
Unit 2: Structure of Social Systems.
Unit 3: Micro-level Social Systems: The Person in the Social Context of the Family.
Unit 4: Meso-level Social systems: Groups.
Unit 5: Macro-level social Systems: Organizations.
Unit 6: Social Systems in Cultural and Societal Contexts.
Unit 7: Social Systems and Community.
Unit 8: Epilogue to Systems Thinking.


Requirements

1. Participate in the CourseRoom discussion as indicated in each Learning Unit.
2. Complete all assignments as indicated in each Learning Unit.
3. Complete one of the following options for your final project or paper.
4. Make use of American Psychological Association (5th ed.) style for all citations and references.

Option A:

Write a profile or case study of a major social system institution (for example, a local hospital, government agency, human services organization, a community) in which the concepts and theories of social systems analysis are dominant elements in the production of the profile. You may compare and contrast at least two theories to determine their value as analytical tools of the chosen institution. Interviews could become an important element of the overall project. Such interviews need early scheduling and you should review the questions you hope to get answered in the interview. The key here is to ground the production of research data in theory. The instructor will necessarily be an important guide in keeping the research project on track (5,000 words).


Option A Milestones:

The following milestones for Option A should be either privately posted in the CourseRoom or posted for comment by other learners.

(Due 2nd week of class) Inform instructor of your choice of Option A and what social institution you will profile.
(Due 4th week of class) Inform instructor of which concepts and theories you will be writing about and indicating why they are important compared with other possible choices.
(Due 6th week of class) Outline of paper indicating areas you will cover. Include an early review of the literature of between 10 and 15 articles of relevance to the your profile.
(Due 8th week of class) Rough final draft for review and final comment from instructor.
(Due 12th week of class) Final completed draft submitted to instructor.


Option B:

Write a major position/policy paper identifying and analyzing the main concepts, ideas, and/or strategies as specified in the course objectives. The paper must contain a clear exposition of the parameters of your position, a brief explanation of why it is an important topic for discussion, a review of the literature for and against your position, and finally an analysis of how the position under discussion relates to your profession and what effect your position might have on your profession if made policy (5,000 words).

Option B Milestones:

(Due 2nd week of class) Inform instructor of your choice of Option B and what topic you will likely cover in your paper.
(Due 4th week of class) Present instructor with a literature review containing between 10 and 15 articles or books which you feel are important contributions to our understanding of your topic.
(Due 6th week of class) Outline the paper indicating the sub-topics you will cover in each paper.
(Due 8th week of class) Rough final draft of the paper for review and final comment from instructor.
(Due 12th week of class) Final completed draft of all your paper submitted to instructor.



Option C:

Produce an individualized project designed in close consultation with, and approved by, the course instructor. This option may be done alone or with others in a team. However, if done as a team, the instructor must be satisfied that the work of each learner on the team is the equivalent of the amount of work done by a single learner for Option A or B. The project must demonstrate an understanding of the objectives of the course. It must also demonstrate the ability to analyze the literature on the subject you have selected, include pertinent concepts and theories, and demonstrate its usefulness as an effective learning tool for others in your profession.

This option gives you an opportunity to demonstrate creative application of course and program objectives through the development of such projects as:

A Web site that future Capella learners may consult for additional explanations and demonstrations of the concepts and theories contained in the course.
A set of PowerPoint slide presentations on topics that would be appropriate for delivery at a professional conference or other formal gathering of persons in your profession. These should reflect issues related to our understanding of social systems.
A multimedia case study or set of interviews (including such elements as video and audio) that could be made accessible to future learners.
Construction of an annotated bibliography concentrating on a particular aspect of social systems.


The topics, options and methodologies in Option C are only limited by the imagination of you, your colleagues, and the instructor.


Option C Milestones:

If you choose Option C you must inform the instructor by the 2nd week of the course of your choice and what you intend to cover in your project. Thereafter, the instructor, will be in close consultation with you, will establish a set of deadlines similar to the milestones above for which you must provide concrete demonstrations of progress toward project completion. Depending on the project chosen, Capella University staff may be able to supply some technical assistance. The instructor can help determine what assistance is available and how you can make use of it.



Description of required activities and percentage of grade.

Individual competence

You must demonstrate proficiency in the use of language, models and theories in their field of study.

CourseRoom postings including discussions, commentaries, and action assignments are worth 45% of your final grade.

Final project: Examples include projects, papers, proposals, CourseRoom discussions, etc. See below for specific details on possible topics. This is worth 45% of your final grade.

Virtual collaboration

You must participate in activities that require virtual team collaboration.



Grading Criteria

See faculty expectations for complete details.

Note that peer review of another learner's project prior to final submission is worth 10% of your final grade.

08/11/2003


 

 

HS817Social Systems

 

Revised 12/13/02

 

Introduction

 

This course is designed to review basic features and factors of social systems theory as it applies to groups, families, agencies, institutions or corporations, and government entities. It addresses problems inherent in the operation of these systems, as well as suggesting resolution of these problems from a systemic viewpoint. Additionally, the course covers issues of social policy making and decision making that will affect conditions of social change.

 

Social systems theory posits that social change in day-to-day events often shapes the human experience, whether it is personal or professional. It often occurs within the context of larger systemic processes, and these processes can both transform and conform to changes in the larger society. Social systems theory has a variety of characteristics, including the ability to provide a common language to various professional disciplines. It is recognized that interactions of organizations, groups, communities, and people are integrally related in a "common" system. Depending on one's viewpoint, a social system may be composed of persons, groups, institutions, communities, societies, or cultures. These often interact in a fashion that may influence the social behavior of others. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to help you achieve a better understanding of these phenomena.

 

Learning Objectives

 

Core Course Objectives:

Mastery of these core course objectives must be demonstrated in the final course completion materials.

 

Upon completion of this course, I will be able to demonstrate the following outcomes:

 

Application Objectives:

In addition to demonstrating mastery of core course content, objectives that address how to apply the theory and research to ones area of expertise or future area of expertise are stated in this section. In the space provided, identify learning objectives that reflect how you the learner will apply the course to your area of professional interest or practice.

 

Course Start / End Time Frames

 

Directed Study course start dates are submitted to the Registrar by the course Tutor. The start date is the first day of the month following registration of the course by the Tutor. From that date, the course is to be completed in 90 days as per University policy. If an extension for completion of the course is required, contact the Course Tutor to discuss this option. With this in mind, submit the timeframe you anticipate for completion of the course as stated below.

 

Learning Resources

 

In consultation with the course tutor, an appropriate list of resources is developed in the learning plan recognizing that changes in and expansion of the initial list will take place as the course is developed. The following references are provided as a starting point for your research. To expand your knowledge of the topic, other books, journals or resources that are similar in scope may be substituted. It is emphasized that resources must include no fewer than 10 relevant refereed journal articles. In addition, you may include web-based materials, books, and other reference sources.

 

Books

American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Edition). Washington, DC: Author.

Anderson, R. E., Carter, I., & Lowe, G. R. (1999). Human behavior in the social environment: A social systems approach. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Anderson, E. (1992). Streetwise: Race, class and change in an urban community. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Bailey, K. D. (1992). Sociology and the new systems theory: Toward a theoretical synthesis. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Fein, M. (1990). Role change: A resocialization perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Haley, A., & Malcolm X (1992). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345376714

Huber, J. (1993). Gender role change in families: A macrosociological view. In T. H. Brubaker (Ed.), Family Relations (pp. 41-58). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

 

Journals

Alinsky, S. (1984). Community analysis and organization. Clinical Sociology Review, 2, 25-34.

Bailey, K. D. (1998). Social ecology and living systems theory. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, pp. 421-433.

Hagedorn, J. M. (1997). Homeboys, new jacks, and anomie. Journal of African American Men, 3(1), 7-28.

Johnson, D. (1986). Using sociology to analyze human and organizational problems: A humanistic perspective to link theory and practice. Clinical Sociology Review, 4, 57-70.

Kassop, M. (1987). Salvador Minuchin: A sociological analysis of his family therapy theory. Clinical Sociology Review, 5, 158-167.

LaPointe, G. (1998). Human nature, humanistic social systems, and design. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 15(3), 193-209.

Porter, E.H. (1987). The parable of the spindle. Clinical Sociology Review, 5, 33-44.

Straussner, S.L.A., & Phillips, N. K. (1999). The impact of job loss on professional and managerial employees and their families. The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 80 (6), 642.

Venkatesh, S. A. (1997). The three-tier model: How helping occurs in urban, poor communities. Social Service Review, 71(4), 574-607.

Yank, M. D., Barber, J.W., & Spradlin, W W. (1994). Mental health treatment teams and leadership: A system model. Behavioral Science, 39, 293-310.

 

Video

Lee, S. (Director). (1992). Malcolm X. Warner Studios.

 

 

Documentation of Learning

 

The following options are examples of ways to demonstrate learning. NOTE: Regardless of the "option" chosen, it is necessary to use appropriate references to the literature to support the position(s) or view(s) taken and to demonstrate the ability to analyze, synthesize and integrate theory and research into the materials that are developed. In the CLP, only include the Option you have selected.

 

All written materials must conform to APA 5th Edition style and form. It is important to be specific in the learning plan about the topics to be explored and the learning strategies to be followed. If you are submitting a paper, submit a topical or annotated outline with the Course Learning Plan. In general, directed study written materials submitted for course completion range in length from 25 - 30 pages, excluding references. Variation in length and presentation materials should be discussed with the course Tutor.

 

In the CLP submitted to the course Tutor, identify only the Option you have selected.

 

Option 1: Research Paper

Prepare a research paper delineating major theories relating to Social Systems based on analysis of the material in this course. Compare and contrast the assumptions and the implications of each broad theory and explain why you accept or reject certain theories. The final paper should demonstrate the ability to think critically and creatively in comparing and contrasting theories. The second part of this option involves application of the course content to an area of particular interest within ones specialization, world of work, or future area of practice.

 

Option 2: Professional Practice Position Paper

Prepare a position paper that argues for a particular way to apply the theoretical principles of Social Systems and integrate this into an issue or problem in your profession. Address major controversies in the field with reference to this course content subject matter. This may take the form of a journal article submitted for publication or that of papers presented at professional seminars and organizations. Use references to support positions taken, both pro and con. If the paper is to be submitted for publication, review the "Manuscript Submission" guidelines for the publication and develop the material with this in mind.

 

Option 3: Panel Presentation

Develop and report on a professional panel presentation at a seminar, workshop, or national conference on Social Systems involving at least three major theorists reviewed as learning resources. Include yourself as a major participant in the conference with your own comparison and contrast of alternative points of view. Evidence of scholarly research must be included in the materials submitted and can consist of an appended annotated reference list as well as a comprehensive presentation of materials to be used in such a hypothetical or actual presentation.

 

Option 4: Original Presentation Format

You are encouraged to devise original methods to present documentation of learning. Included in this option are materials that incorporate media methods of presenting information, non-traditional course completion materials, and other written materials that clearly reflect mastery of course content. Review original format possibilities with the course Tutor prior to submitting the CLP.

 

 

Option 5: A Case Study

To illustrate the application of course theories, devise three in-depth case studies and analyze the cases from the perspective of the available research regarding the course content. It is suggested that traditional as well as innovative/evolving theories be used. Case studies using real clients must follow ethical guidelines for ensuring confidentiality of client information. Within the case study approach is a requirement to assess and evaluate the efficacy of the method selected.

 

Outline / Timeline

 

Append to the CLP the following:

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Title: THE MISANTHROPE'S CORNER ,  By: Florence, National Review, 00280038, 1/28/2002, Vol. 54, Issue 1
Database: Academic Search Premier



THE MISANTHROPE'S CORNER


You know what I like about this magazine? I never hear a word about "the National Review family." We must be the only outfit left that doesn't push the huddle-and-cuddle organizing principle now rampant in American business, political, and cultural life.

The word "family" has become ubiquitous, right up there with those automatic ejaculations of "Absolutely!" that have replaced the simple "yes." At the rate we're going, it threatens to join "aloha" and "ciao" as an everything word that means whatever we need it to mean. Is the phone ringing? Pick it up and say "Family." Spot an acquaintance on the bus? "Family. How's things?" Get off before he does? "See you around. Family."

The possibilities are endless. It could become our all-purpose Big Ten cheer--"Family! Family! Sis boom bah!"--replace "roger" and "ten-four" in two-way radiospeak, and give Sen. Robert Byrd a golden opportunity to repeat the ancient history he loves so much. Cato the Elder had such a wild hair on about Hannibal that he ended every speech, regardless of subject matter, with the words, "Carthage must be destroyed." Byrd, who has never minded non sequiturs, could wind up his orotund disquisitions on West Virginia cement with "The family must be preserved."

References to family are getting more and more compulsive, lacking any direct connection to the subject at hand and frequently clashing with it. On my last trip to the supermarket, I noticed at the very top of my cash-register receipt the words: "Spend More Time With Your Family! Hot Rotisserie Chicken!" That sounds forced, until we realize that the store must have been subconsciously inspired by the excuse that philandering politicians have cooked up to explain sudden early retirements necessitated by their taste for spring chicken.

Even more far-out is the boat-on-a-rope commercial for Eukanuba Dog Food, which is said to contain a teeth strengthener. It tells the tale of a Labrador named Mas who saved "a family in trouble" by pulling a boat containing the whole lot of them to safety through a raging river with the mooring rope clenched in her iron teeth. My, how far we've progressed. Lassie played favorites, reserving her greatest devotion for young Joe; at the end of her trek she dragged herself to his school, not to the family's cottage, but then Lassie was not an American dog.

If all politics is local, all news is family. This is achieved by the widespread practice of tossing in the phrase "and their families," which, as Michael Kinsley has noted, has an immediate cheapening effect.

Read any story about any workplace shooting spree and you will be deep in huddle-and-cuddle by the third paragraph. A recent affray took place at an Indiana factory that makes Nu-Wood, a synthetic used for decorative trimming-i.e., by charming coincidence, a fake substance. One company rep was quoted as saying, "I'm concerned for the people, because they treat me like family." Said another, "It's not like an assembly-line situation. Everyone knows each other, and everyone intermixes with each other." (Is it possible, can it be, that this is why matters erupted into gunfire? Don't ask.)

Even the Health Section-or rather, especially the Health Section-is a clearing house for huddle-and-cuddle, often expressing more concern for "cancer families" than for the cancer patients themselves: How to Tell Your Family you've got whatever it is you've got; How Families Cope with the news; and What If Your Family Is in Denial? A typical recent article told of a man who had a stroke that left him paralyzed and afflicted with double vision and slurred speech for almost a year. "And the worst part, he said, was that he could not interact as he used to with his children and his wife." He couldn't walk, couldn't talk, couldn't see, but the worst part was inability to "interact"? Give me a break. (Help Your Family Cope with Your Osteoporosis.)

The most deadly aspect of huddle-and-cuddle is now staring us in the face. Our immigration policy favors family reunification over all other considerations, including national security. Once an immigrant gets in, we let him send for his family members, a policy that favors the very ethnic groups we should be leery of, but neurotic sentiment mitigates against leeriness. Show us a slew of Third World relatives-Eldest Brother, Venerable Aunt, Honorable Uncle, and two dozen fifth cousins all named Mohammed-and we will show you a visa, because an "extended family" is even more sacrosanct than the immediate kind.

Does it come as any surprise that gays want to marry and adopt? For centuries they celebrated their freedom from the spills and bills of domesticity, but in our relentless obsession with family we have inadvertently activated what was once assumed not to exist: a gay gene for respectability.

Huddle-and-cuddle is an inevitable response to force-fed diversity and political correctness. The instinct to seek out one's own kind is hard-wired into human nature, but we don't dare acknowledge it, so we manufacture artificial ties that bind as we go along. Referring to groups of coworkers, customers, subscribers, and people with the same hobby as the something-or-other "family" imparts a vague sameness in which noble-sounding metaphors such as "the Family of Man" can be personalized and reduced to a manageable size.

I don't usually find a light at the end of the tunnel, but this time I've found two. First, the return of liquor ads to TV means that the word "family" will be verboten for all of 30 seconds.

The other light was shed (no pun intended) by Garfield the Cat. Two Sundays before Christmas, Jon was on the phone with his dreary relatives down on the farm. One by one they came on the line, spouting hearty clichs, exchanging trite sentiments, until we got to his brother, Doc Boy, he of the room-temperature IQ, who was inaudible because he was talking into the wrong end of the phone.

At this, Garfield looked up with his fiendish grin and said: "Happy holidays, all you family members out there."

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE)

~~~~~~~~

By Florence

 

Miss King can be reached at P.O. Box 7113, Fredericksburg, VA. 22404.


Copyright of National Review is the property of National Review Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
Source: National Review, 1/28/2002, Vol. 54 Issue 1, p64, 1p
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Article ID: cpb542131
Title: Creating Caring Organizations
Author(s): Dale R. Fuqua Oklahoma State University
Jody L. Newman Department of Educational Psychology, University of Oklahoma
Source: Consulting Psychology Journal. Vol. 54 (2) Spring 2002, pp. 131-140. Educational Publishing Foundation
ISSN: 10614087
Digital Object ID: 10.1037//1061-4087.54.2.131
Article Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Human systems are often perceived as monolithic social structures in which individuals can only adapt and cope. Actually, social systems are both designed and maintained by individuals. The structure of a human system can be changed in deliberate ways when individuals take personal responsibility for the system and collaborate with one another. Consulting psychology is a powerful vehicle for building and rebuilding organizational structures and cultures in ways that deliberately provide healthy and supportive social environments for members. One step in this change process is the definition of the desired social environment. A few elements that may be relevant in this context are reviewed.
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Creating Caring Organizations


 

By: Dale R. Fuqua

Oklahoma State University

 

Jody L. Newman

Department of Educational Psychology, University of Oklahoma

 

 

This article is based on a paper presented by Dale R. Fuqua as the Invited Presidential Address of the Division of Consulting Psychology at the 109th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA, August 2001.

Correspondence may be addressed to: Jody L. Newman, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Fleet Oval Room 321, Norman, Oklahoma 73019-2041. Electronic mail may be sent to jlnewman@ou.edu.

 

 

Human organizations like families, schools, religious groups, and businesses are essential to the human experience. They shape our lives and our characters in the most basic ways. A majority of people spend most of their waking lives operating within human organizations. Consequently, it is natural for those in the helping professions to be concerned with the processes, structures, and cultures that comprise the organizations in which people live and work. Systems theory continues to be the predominant conceptual model for analyzing and understanding human organizations (Beer, 1980; Fuqua & Kurpius, 1993; Fuqua & Newman, in press; Kilburg, 1995). Systems theory conceptualizes the structural elements of the system in complex patterns of interdependency within the organization and the environment in which the organization exists. Organizations can become very large and complex, and the environments in which organizations exist and operate are almost always complex.

"Organizations are a lot like the people who belong to them. Once born, they experience the wonder of growth and development" (Hardy & Schwartz, 1996, p. 1). It is not surprising to encounter concepts like "character of an organization," and there may be some value in applying that concept (Levinson, 1997). A more common practice has been to refer to the culture of an organization. Nowadays, the term is in very common usage and seems to include everything about the organization. One of our concerns about the concept of organizational culture is that it is so inclusive and poorly defined that one might as well talk in terms of organizational "personality. " In some respects, the term culture has come to be a general term that only fools people into thinking they understand the complexity of the organizational system. The lack of meaningful operationalization of the culture construct is interesting in itself but digresses from the central theme of this article. The point being emphasized here is that organizations have characteristics that are relatively stable and enduring. This stability can be healthy or not, depending on the circumstances.

Coming from a background of social learning theory, Bandura (1997) characterized the relationship of people to systems in the following manner:

 

Human adaptation and change are rooted in social systems. Therefore, personal agency operates within a broad network of sociostructural influences. In agentic transactions, people are both producers and products of social systems. Social structureswhich are devised to organize, guide, and regulate human affairs in given domains by authorized rules and sanctionsdo not arise by immaculate conception; they are created by human activity. Social structures, in turn, impose constraints and provide resources for personal development and everyday functioning. But neither structural constraints nor enabling resources foreordain what individuals become and do in given situations. For the most part, social structures represent authorized social practices carried out by human beings occupying designated roles. (p. 6)

 

Although we acknowledge that social systems have considerable influence with individuals, we also believe that social systems are essentially under human control. Of course, individuals within a system may have limited control, but our general experience has been that people have a great deal more control over the systems within which they work than they wish to acknowledge. In fact, one of the principal goals of consulting psychology must always be to encourage, enable, and empower individuals to take responsibility for the social systems in which they live and work.

 

 

We believe that systems theory has failed at times to meet its potential for producing human good. Too often, systems theory has become an excuse for personal failures, leading some to believe that people are products of their environment. It is actually quite to the contrary. The greatest potential of systems theory is to empower individuals to singularly and collectively take responsibility for the systems in which they work and live to the end of building and re-building human systems that are more responsive to human needs. (Fuqua & Newman, in press)

Consider the observations of Winum, Ryterband, and Stephenson (1997): "Despite all the talk and expense, most organizational change efforts have not achieved the intended result. Failures have been noted in multiple areas of organizational performance" (p. 7). Perhaps this is so, at least in part, because people are prone to try to solve the wrong problems. "In fact, consultants are often asked to help continue solving that same wrong problem, that is to collude in displacing attention away from deeper, more painful, and often taboo issues" (Stein, 1996, p. 17). Argyris (1990), in a particularly helpful way, pointed out how dysfunctional defensive routines in organizations can become, especially because they lead to enforced silence about errors that are occurring in the organization. Even worse, people are not allowed to discuss the fact that the errors are undiscussable. Thus, the organization can be locked into a perpetual pattern that creates and maintains errors and, consequently, ensures that no further learning can occur.

Consulting psychology, and, more generally, organizational development, which is less well-bounded (Beer & Walton, 1990), has not realized its potential in organizational helping because of a narrow focus on problem solving or a limited focus on strategic processes. We would like to suggest that a major goal of organizational development ought first to be to determine what kind of organization should evolve from the perspective of community identity. If one only helps organizations solve problems at a given point in time, little persisting impact is likely. Fundamentally, people need to become the masters of human systems, which too often seem impervious to individual efforts, whatever the role and status of the individuals in the system. Given that human systems are largely the direct products of human activity, this must be reasonable goal.

In the past 10 years, the unprecedented financial growth in the United States might have led one to expect that organizational life is good. Not so. Rising concerns about deviant and aggressive behaviors are apparent (Griffin, O'Leary-Kelly, & Collins, 1998). There are very good reasons to be concerned about rising levels of incivility in the workplace (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001). Corporate strategies like downsizing, outsourcing, restructuring, and mergers have created a very different climate for the relationships of employees with their work organizations (Kanter, 1989; Rousseau & Tijoriwala, 1999). Decreased job security coupled with increased technological requirements and information accessing have created a more stressful work environment in general for millions of people working in organizations. The increased level of technology in communications and production has contributed to an increased sense of personal isolation for many workers, which can also stimulate stress while distancing access to traditional sources of social support.

The idea that organizations ought to represent caring environments and that consultation ought to be a means of fostering caring structure and behavior seems harmless enough. You might be surprised at how much hostility the idea can generate. Our students often think the idea is too idealistic. Colleagues are more likely to view the notion of a caring organization as "soft," a label that we know has often been used to refer to a process orientation in consulting (Burke, 1993). In this case, however, we think the term means something akin to "nave. " So-called hard consulting is more attractive to people who are trying to be successful in a competitive business climate. We know that some people have raised the possibility that consultants ought to have a master's of business administration (MBA), including consulting psychologists:

 

At a recent conference attended primarily by consulting psychologists, someone made the remark that "maybe every consultant should have an M. B. A. ," or something very close to this idea. It reflects awareness by those who consult in organizational settings that business models for management are different from psychological models for helping and change. The proposal responds to the common perception that organizational consultation is influenced heavily by management practices and perspectives. (Fuqua & Newman, in press)

 

Maybe the consulting psychologist has something else to offer. For example, Kilburg (1995), in integrating psychodynamic and systems theory, suggested that "Psychodynamic theory provides very useful information about the human side of organizational behavior" (p. 32). Atella (1999), from an existentialist perspective, wrote "It is not surprising that the individual who is more committed and connected to self and others has greater health, effectiveness, and well-being" (p. 131). If consulting psychologists are merely successful in emulating business managers, a greater potential for building more effective organizations from the perspective of quality of life enhancement might be lost or seriously compromised. More is possible.

What is it that drives the services offered by consulting psychologists? There is an impressive research base supporting the efficacy of specific interventions. Gibson and Chard (1994) reported a meta-analysis that included 1,643 consultation outcomes and reported an overall moderate effect size for the interventions. Blanton (2000) reported that consultants are more influenced by their experience than by the research findings. Experience is often difficult to distinguish from other cognitive structures, such as values and attitudes. Certainly some principles, like that of inclusion, are key concepts in organizational consultation.

 

 

It is a very important observation that mistreatment of the less powerful members of an organization is not only immoral. It is extremely poor organizational strategy. Any lack of inclusion of the least powerful members of an organization will lead to reduced functioning. While special consideration of those with restricted access to power is a moral mandate for psychologists, it is also an essential component in building effective organizations. (Newman, Robinson-Kurpius, & Fuqua, in press)

Beer and Walton (1990) said it very well regarding organizational development as a field of practice:

 

Organization development is concerned with improving performance; however, because of an equal concern for the well-being of people, practitioners of organization development assume that the best way to achieve both outcomes is through trust, open confrontation of problems, employee empowerment and participation, the design of meaningful work, cooperation between groups, and full use of human potential. (pp. 154-155)

 

This concern for the well-being of people ought to be the foundation of consulting psychology.

The concern that psychologists share for the well-being of people applies very reasonably to the work setting (Adkins, 1999; Ilgen, 1990). The major theories of motivation lead to the conclusion that supportive social environments with work that is attractive to employees are critical to building effective organizations, but most organizations do not accomplish these elements (Katzell & Thompson, 1990). It is clear from research that perceived organizational support is an important variable in strengthening an individual's relationship to an organization (Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, & Rhoades, 2001; Eisenberger, Fasolo, & Davis-LaMastro, 1990). The importance of self-determination strategies in organizations has been vigorously researched for years (Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989). Furthermore, it is clear that perceptions of organizational fairness have significant effects on citizenship behaviors of organizational members (Moorman, 1991). This is the point: Helping others take personal responsibility for building consistently caring, nurturing environments that respect individual needs and preferences in cooperative and socially supportive environments is the ultimate goal of organizational consultation. Furthermore, the perception that social process issues interfere with performance in terms of productivity, broadly defined, is a misperception that only serves to inhibit organizational learning and development. From a slightly different perspective:

 

The point being made here is that we have learned that emphasizing either profit motives or social interests independently is nave. These dimensions are intricately related. Consulting psychology practiced in the marketplace can lead to increasingly humanized work settings that will be optimally profitable. In this context, the fact that most consulting contracts are awarded by those in management positions may lead to conflicts of interest within the organization. The consultant can find him/herself in the position of helping to develop management strategies that may increase profitability at the cost of employee welfare. Is this an activity in which psychologists should participate? Does this violate the ethical principles? Should we use behavioral science to help manipulate employees into positions not in their best interests? (Newman et al. , in press)

 

Every consultant ought to consider these questions before engaging in contractual obligations in the marketplace.

 

Elements of a Caring Organization

 

Although systems theory and the concept of organizational culture reflect the potential complexity of human systems, there are some relatively simple and familiar concepts that are essential elements of caring organizations. Actually the term caring organization is somewhat misleading. People must care for one another. We use the term caring organization to refer to systems where personal concern about the welfare of others and self is the norm. It is interesting that most of the elements we are able to identify that we consider essential to building and maintaining caring organizations are relatively simple, familiar ones that are already in common usage. Understanding the concepts must be far easier than maintaining them in practice as consistent elements of social systems. It is apparently much easier to use what we have learned about the relationship of organizational structure to individual behavior to excuse personal and collective failure than it is to take personal responsibility for the systemic features. Our experience has been that most people are far more aware of the ways in which the system has failed them than of the ways in which they have failed others in the system. The assumption of personal responsibility for the cultures in which we live and work is essential to healthy living. For systems theory to realize its potential in terms of improving the quality of human life, it must become a conceptual platform for taking personal responsibility. In the following paragraphs, some characteristics we believe to be most essential to caring cultures are presented.

Gratitude

 

Rhatigan (1996) suggested that "Being thankful reminds us that many of our blessings have not been earned, but are, rather, the product of people in our present and past" (p. 70). Focusing a reasonable amount of energy on the positive circumstances that surround us is very healthy. That is not to say that gratitude should blind us to problems or difficult circumstances, but that problems and concerns exist in a broader context. Structural conflicts and hostilities are more difficult to maintain in the context of sincere gratitude. Constructive attitudes toward the blessings in our circumstances, earned or not, are contagious. Chronic bitching and blaming, justifiable or not, is much less likely to impair individuals in the presence of sincere gratitude. Consultants can model thankfulness and they can more directly focus the attention of others on the topic. For example, a consultant might pose the following questions: What is good about this place? What are you grateful for in this organization? The absence of gratitude can be diagnostic on several levels.

Forgiveness

 

Elsewhere we have described a significant professional experience that introduces the concept of forgiveness in the organizational context.

 

 

We have already indicated that people are often unaware of the structure of the organization they exist in and are often isolated in ways that discourage them from understanding their interrelationships with other units. In very dysfunctional systems, people will very often experience and describe structural issues as something external to them by which they are being victimized. Usually the most difficult structural issues are actually "in" the people, but that is not the common perception. This point deserves an example. A middle level manager was describing some very difficult conflicts operating in his organization across several hierarchical units. He had a great deal of energy for discussing the conflict by which he and others were being persecuted. He had a great historical "cause and effect" explanation for the conflict. When asked if he would like for "forgiveness" to be an important part of his organizational culture, he became very quiet. (Fuqua & Newman, in press)

The quiet was a reflection on the realization that he had some significant responsibility in the situation that had been reframed as an unforgiving culture.

Forgiveness is an essential component of every healthy social system. It is not possible to live and work together without offending one another. Sometimes the offenses are not only unintended, but also unknown to the offender. Consider for just a moment what the fruits of unforgiveness might be: anger, conflict, mistrust. Mistrust is often a reciprocal experience, and once conflict becomes embedded in the structure of an organization, it is much more difficult to resolve. In environments where forgiveness is scarce, high-risk social interactions must exist. Who has not offended someone unintentionally? Expecting the forgiveness of those you work with is a freeing experience. It leads very naturally to a tendency to forgive others. Forgiveness ought to be a social norm in every organization.

Encouragement

 

Everyone needs some encouragement even though there are individual differences in this regard. In dysfunctional organizations, people seem to be much more aware of their personal needs for encouragement than the needs of others. Helping others understand and assume some responsibility for social encouragement is an important change goal. In the absence of adequate encouragement, psychologists are well aware that some people will develop covert methods of seeking encouragement that easily become dysfunctional. If people rely too heavily on vertical encouragement, competitive norms may become inhibiting. Horizontal encouragement (peer encouragement) is potentially more abundant and is based on the assumption that encouragement is everyone's responsibility. Informal encouragement from peers is powerfully motivating and reciprocal. It quickly can become normative, which ought to be the goal. Encouragement is not reinforcement in the sense that a person's need for encouragement may be independent of their performance. Encouragement should serve to inspire and give hope, confidence, and courage when it is useful or needed.

Sensitivity

 

Being susceptible to the experiences and conditions of others is a fundamental social virtue. It is also a commitment that requires discipline. Taking the time to express interests in others by asking how they are doing changes the social climate. It creates not only an opportunity to seek support and understanding, but also a normative expectation. Certainly sensitivity will sometimes lead to respecting others' privacy, but often the expression of social concern is therapeutic. It is ironic that large organizations can become lonely, isolating environments. An active personal commitment to attend to the experiences of others is basic to creating caring environments. In dysfunctional organizations, sensitivity is either actively suppressed or misguided.

Compassion

 

Sensitivity to the experiences of others is fundamental, but in caring organizations, sensitivity leads very naturally to compassion. When suffering is experienced, compassionate people are compelled to share the experience in supportive ways. Alleviation of suffering is a strong drive when compassion exists in a substantial way. Although compassion is a personal virtue, enough compassionate people committed to alleviating suffering can and will create compassionate environments. Unfortunately, personal suffering can be interpreted as a competitive advantage or social sport in the absence of functional compassion.

Community

 

There is a constant tension between individual interests and common interests in an organization. Cooperative efforts often fail to produce win-win outcomes, and individual compromises have to be made. In caring organizations, personal responsibility is the mechanism by which the community interests are maintained. Members are constantly aware of their personal interests, the interests of the community, and the relationship of the two sets of interests. There must be a good balance between the needs of individuals and those of the organizational community. When power or force must be applied to subject personal interests to community interests, something precious can be lostthat is, dignity and the sense of personal responsibility to and for the community. In a healthy community, individuals are constantly aware of their contribution, that is, how the nature, quality, and timeliness of their work behavior influences the experience of others in the organization.

Tolerance

 

People are very different in terms of needs, interests, and experiences. Even at the individual level, people change over time, at least occasionally needing some extraordinary consideration. Sometimes this consideration has real costs in time and energy to others. Appraising others' impact in a social environment with a rigid set of expectations across time or across individuals leads to unhealthy tension at both the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels. Furthermore, intolerant environments are limiting in terms of the breadth of perspective available for task accomplishment, problem solving, and the like. Tolerance, as a cognitive and behavioral condition, is a personal choice and responsibility. Tolerance must be founded in a deep respect for the worth and dignity of others. A group of individuals committed to working in a tolerant environment can build tolerance into the structure of their organization. In a caring organization, tolerance is a public, valued, normative condition that must permeate organizational structure.

Inclusion

 

Consultants are well aware of the notion that including stakeholders in a change process encourages appropriate ownership and leads to increased motivation. Inclusion also can increase the sense of community in an organization. As the sense of community grows, isolation and alienation at the personal level is inhibited. By encouraging community identity through inclusive strategies, the talents, skills, knowledge, and perspectives of individuals can be focused on organizational development. As a consequence of these factors, inclusion is a good change strategy. Also, people are social creatures with social needs, many of which are primarily met through work. Even mean, irritable, grumpy people have social needs. Inclusion facilitates the healthy expression of social needs at both the group and individual levels. Personal affirmation and a sense of social dignity are supported by inclusion and undermined by exclusion. In this way, people may leave the work setting as more complete human beings.

Charity

 

Benevolence toward others is highly valued in our society, at least at the philosophical level. In competitive situations, however, it can be scarce. On a day-to-day basis, we often fail to practice giving. There are many ways one might give to colleagues or coworkers. Sometimes performance recognition can be a gift of great importance and effect. Communicating appreciation to others for their contributions or for who they are in general is a way of giving. Making a commitment to give to others regularly is a powerful personal commitment that changes environments. Certainly, there are constantly those in our work environment who have basic needs for recognition and a sense of worth. The gift itself has great personal meaning. However, the gift also changes the giver. Giving requires a sensitivity and compassion, and it certainly enhances the experience of community alliances. Accepting responsibility that one has the power and opportunity to give is a life-changing experience. In turn, it will change organizations.

 

Discussion and Conclusions

 

Our list of elements of caring organizations is not exhaustive. These conditions are familiar, common, and nontechnical ones that are, at least formally, valued in our culture. Yet few existing organizations could be characterized by these conditions. Why? As we reflect on the conditions that comprise caring organizational environments, we are reminded of years of promotion of the core conditions in counseling and psychotherapy. Actually, we have never given up our belief that experiencing a genuine, warm, attentive, caring relationship with another person is essential to being nurtured in any setting. The competition between the common factors approach and the medical model for explaining counseling and psychotherapy outcomes has focused this issue even recently. We agree with Wampold's (2001) conclusion:

 

Clearly the constructs used to investigate the commonalities of therapies are not independent. Empathy and the formation of the working alliance, for example, are intricately and inextricably connected. Nevertheless, continued conceptualization of and research on the commonalities of therapy are critical to understanding the scientific bases of psychotherapy and to augmenting the benefits of these treatments. (p. 211)

 

Certainly the therapeutic relationship and the core conditions are important aspects of the common factors that are associated with increased health. Similarly, we believe that the cultural dimensions of healthy organizations must be conceptualized in ways that individuals can understand and take personal responsibility for implementing.

The economic and political realities that organizations are faced with can contribute to more competitive and hostile environments. The historical management model for organizational life has focused necessarily on the idea of productivity as it relates to profit. The traditional capitalistic model has held that if profits can be sufficiently built and maintained, an increased quality of life can be afforded for all. Traditional organizational development models held the opposite view, that is, by increasing the quality-of-life dimensions in organizations by humanizing structures and processes, organizational effectiveness in the form of productivity will be enhanced. There are many examples of organizational disappointments based on each of these two models. The enlightened view is that the distinction between quality of life and productivity is a fallacy. Productivity and quality-of-life characteristics are integrally and inextricably related in the structure and people that comprise the organization. Effective organizations have learned to integrate these conceptual models into a more realistic systemic view.

So what should the role and purpose of consulting psychology be in helping organizations? Certainly we favor one that includes a clear and consistent focus on how to help organizational members take personal responsibility for designing and achieving the kinds of organizations that tend to optimize the quality of life for members. One risk is that consulting psychology may become an adjunct to the traditional management model. Typically, managers at relatively high levels in organizations will control the financial resources necessary to support external consultants. Entry into an organization at the top levels may be shaping, to some large extent, the kinds of problems that consultants are helping to address. That is not necessarily inappropriate, but it is, at least at the extreme, a market-driven model for the profession. An important question remains: How does the management-oriented agenda relate to quality-of-life dimensions? In cases where organizational leadership and management motives are altruistic, issues related to social welfare ought to be easily addressed. In cases where the management agenda is egocentric, the general social welfare may be poorly served. How should a consultant behave under these circumstances? More important, do we wish to reduce consulting psychology to a tool for pursuing management goals and objectives, or is there a greater social function we can serve?

Along these lines, executive coaching represents an interesting development. Admittedly, executive coaching may just be another term for counseling (Tobias, 1996), perhaps one that is more palatable in the business world. Clearly executive coaching, to be very effective, must focus on the team and systems levels at times (Kilburg, 1996; Kralj, 2001), in which case broader benefits may be realized. From a different perspective, though, one has not read much about blue collar coaching. Why not? One might argue that executive coaching involves concentrating additional resources on the already privileged. Most would agree that, with unlimited resources, a lot of good could be accomplished by focusing psychological resources on the work needs of line staff. Line staff clearly do benefit from understanding systems theory and the concept of interdependence. Most managers have some workable grasp on these concepts already. It is possible that helping line staff focus on their broad responsibility to, and interdependency with, others in the organization would enhance the probability of collaborative functioning within and across units. This typically improves the functioning of the organization in addition to simultaneously improving the quality of work life for the involved staff. Most people who work with dysfunctional organizations would attest to the fact that the dysfunction is often found in dysfunctional patterns of behavior at the line level and above. More effective organizations would surely result from open access of line staff to organizational consultants. Of course, we have to remember that resources are not unlimited. We leave the reader with the following question, one that we believe needs to be answered at the personal level: As a social resource, how should consulting psychology be focused?

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Copyright 2002 by the Educational Publishing Foundation and the Society of Consulting Psychology,
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Source: Consulting Psychology Journal. Vol. 54 (2) Spring 2002, pp. 131-140
Accession Number: cpb542131 Digital Object Identifier: 10.1037//1061-4087.54.2.131
 
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