Publication Date



Turbulence is usually considered a negative property of an organization’s environment. Yet turbulence is also a feature of an organization’s internal dynamics and may be useful for productivity. This article argues that interactions between the formal and informal management of trouble produce relational turbulence that may mobilise resources and collective action, or conversely lead to dysfunction and crisis. The author links relational psychoanalytic theory with social constructionist perspectives in exploring intersubjective dynamics of trouble and its repercussions of turbulence. Based on a longitudinal interorganizational ethnography, an atypical mental healthcare organization is described – a Democratic Therapeutic Community – in which turbulence plays a central function, but in two very different ways. In a restorative mode, turbulence generates formative spaces that are creative and have a regulating function, useful for organizational productivity. Conversely, a perverse mode is destructive and may produce intractable perverse spaces, leading to organizational dysfunction, crisis and even collapse. This is theorised by extending the psychoanalytic concept of liminal, transitional space. In contrast to the notion of transitional space as a safe, protective area, the author develops a model of distinct formative and perverse spaces created by relational turbulence in organizations. In human service organizations, where the generation, trading and management of trouble are inherent in an organization’s internal dynamics, turbulence may be a valuable resource, but one that, in the perverse mode, can be immensely destructive.

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

Access Rights

Open Access