Dr. Edgar Shein on Social Coercion
I found a fascinating autobiographical essay on Edgar Shein’s site at MIT. If you aren’t familiar with Shein, he is the author of a concept he has labeled career anchors. He says that in each of us, one of eight motivators predominates in our career choices.
For example, the autonomy anchor drives the field sales person who rejects a lucrative move into managing the team. The lifestyle anchor moves executives (these days, male and female ones) onto what has been called “the mommy track.” The technical compentence anchor may have been the one that led Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates to change his role to that of Chief Technical Officer.
In “The Academic as Artist: Personal and Professional Roots,” which can be downloaded in .pdf at his official site at MIT, Dr. Shein shares the academic and professional journey that has included studying brainwashing in POW camps and the indoctrination of corporate managers. He attributes his interest in this territory to his personal history as a refugee and immigrant.
What interests me in this essay is an underlying premise that I share with Dr. Shein — that there is an inherent tension between dependence and autonomy, between every individual’s desire to be free and any organization’s need (even legitimate need) to impose structure.
I have come to terms with the idea that it is growthful, and probably necessary to my life’s work, to have some involvement with institutions. (As I said, I’ve let go of the idea of living off the grid, literally or figuratively!) However, I still feel viscerally threatened by organizations. It is not yet the sort of dance Shein seems to have found as a professor.