Abstract

The proposed model helps explain dysfunctional dynamics within international humanitarian organizations (HOs) as a product of aid workers' efforts to cope with the psychological distress arising from their work. Through four stages of individual psychological coping strategies, aid workers collectively contribute to the development and perpetuation of institutions, which shape and reinforce the beliefs and behaviour of HO personnel. The discussion demonstrates how the resulting characteristics of HO culture—defensiveness and delusion—impede learning and innovation in the policy process. By exploring the manifestations and implications of this culture type, we can better interpret the behaviour of a unique, yet increasingly significant group of political actors often neglected by current organization theory. Once better understood, HOs can improve personnel support, thereby positively modifying organizational culture to better fulfil their objectives

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