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Leadership, Modes of Experience, and Frontline Turnover
Presented at the PMRC in Washington, DC
June 10, 2017
by Carrie M. Duncan

Abstract: This paper draws on a qualitative study of a substance abuse treatment organization to develop a model of leadership that has the potential to reduce frontline turnover. Frontline workers play a critical role in delivering direct services in substance abuse treatment organizations. They also have the highest rates of turnover in the healthcare sector. The relational processes between leaders, managers, and frontline workers are explored and a psychosocial framework – the tripartite model of organization – is applied to understand the experiences of frontline substance abuse treatment workers and to explain frontline turnover. Findings demonstrate the potential of the psychodynamic concepts of “holding environment” and “containment” in leadership practice for increasing organizational commitment and reducing turnover among frontline service workers. Practical strategies for reducing turnover are suggested for leaders and public managers.

Key words: substance abuse treatment, turnover, leadership, modes of experiencing, tripartite model of organization, relational theories


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