The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Grief and Advocacy: An Applied Anthropologist’s Role in Massive Organizational Change

Howard F. Stein

Based on nearly 20 years of workplace organizational ethnographic research and consultation (largely healthcare), I have come to recognize the triad of change-loss-grief as widespread, if not universal. By contrast, the official, often enforced, position is that massive organizational change – including, but not limited to downsizing, restructuring, and re-engineering – is a purely instrumental rather than an also expressive phenomenon. People are regarded as disposable commodities, and the only thing that counts is the short term economic “bottom line” in the form of shareholder maximization. Advocacy of the process of grief – recognition that there is indeed a personal and group loss that merits mourning - attends to the experience of organizational loss, and offers the reclamation of dignity in highly dehumanizing circumstances. I offer an extended vignette of this process.

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 1, Vol. 24, Spring, 2004 pp 21 – 26

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