The double bind is the defining condition of organisational man

Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles
London Business School and Cass Business School

"They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game."
– RD Laing

Managed organisations create the conditions under which effective communication – and therefore interpersonal trust – is made particularly difficult. It presents its 'victims' with a variety of dilemmas that are seemingly irreconcilable. Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and social scientist, has given the name 'double bind' to just such dilemmas. A double bind is "a situation in which no matter what a person does, he can't win". It was originally put forward as an explanation of schizophrenia by Bateson, Donald Jackson, Jay Haley and John Weakland in 1956, but it is increasingly seen as offering valuable insights into the complexities of everyday communication.