Words as masks: About the importance of denial in management

  • Agnès Vandevelde-Rougale Laboratory for Political and Social Change (LCSP), Paris Diderot-Paris VII University
authority, clinical sociology, denial, managerial discourse, workplace bullying


This article draws on a socio-anthropological research, which questions the effects of managerial discourse on the individual by considering experiences of workplace bullying. It studies the observation that despite the gap between what management says and what management does, words of managerial discourse are still widely used, by managers and employees alike. French philosopher, ethnologist and psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni (1899-1989), reworking Freud’s concept of fetishism, showed in an article entitled “I know very well, but nonetheless…” that a belief can survive the denial (disavowal) of reality. Recognizing fantasy as a fantasy is not sufficient to reduce its power over the individual. Based on a case study, the present article demonstrates that the paradoxical logic phrased by Octave Mannoni can help us understand how managerial discourse can exercise its influence on individuals, despite discrepancies between what is said and what is implemented in the organisations. It presents the hypothesis that words can work as “masks” do in some traditional tribes, thus being the means supporting a belief that sustains management authority.


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How to Cite
Vandevelde-Rougale, Agnès. 2017. “Words As Masks: About the Importance of Denial in Management”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (1), 71–84. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v12i1.3.