Kozminski University, Poland
A museum, shared professional spaces and social distance, or can there be not auto-ethnographic ethnography?
At the beginning of the twenty-first century the museum practitioners and museologists started to stress the educational and recreational function of the museum (with the focus on the public) instead of the hitherto custodial one, focused on the collection (Millar, 1996; Weil, 1997; Griffin & Abraham, 2000; Simon 2011). This shift of attitude among museum professionals and museologists resulted in increasing the museums' budgets for attracting the audience and actively involving them in museums' life (Gilmore & Rentschler, 2002), also online (Fawkner 1997; Jones-Garmil 1997). Together with the custodial shift, more and more efforts were made in the museums to use and promote interactive educational tools and online museum education, all in order to keep pace with the development of new media and new possibilities they offer (Hawkey, 2004; Soren & Lemelin, 2004; Stogner, 2009; Welsh, 2005). It partly succeeded: socialization, information exchange, and recreation became primary types of online activities and services (Hamburger & Ben-Artzi, in Joinson, 2003) manifested in the museum (Falk & Dierking, 2000). However, the emergence of much more interactive Web 2.0 on the one hand revolutionized museums' performance (Kelly 2010), but on the other the following emergence of so-called Museums 2.0 complicated the role of the public (the recipients) who became the audience, participants and cocreators of the content all at the same time (Stein 2012).
One of the Polish museums, museum A, might be an extreme example of both a custodial shift and using online tools to attract the audience and make them co-creators of the institution. For a long time the museum has existed with no main exhibition, and yet the organisation itself, even before it had a building on its own, was and still is luring crowds to its events or online initiatives. However, even though the museum A does relate to participatory culture (Stein, 2012) when it comes to approaching the visitors or the local community, it does not facilitate participatory culture among its employees. The latter influences the ongoing development of the organization and its performance.
Through a qualitative, interpretative anthropological analysis of conceptual terms used by the social actors in the museum A, as well as through a study of organizational myths shared at the institution, the paper aims at describing narratives of professional enactment in the knowledge-rich (Krzyworzeka 2010) and …directorless environment of the museum A. Due to the political conflict in between major decision makers there has been no director (and three different acting directors) for the last three years. Gilmore & Rentschler (2002), discussing different management styles for museum directors, examine how those different styles relate to the museum being more focused on the public than on the collection. Should the lack of a director in museum A explain the lack of participatory culture within the institution? How do people working at the museum explain the institution's current situation? Using the storytelling method (Boje, 1994; Boje, 2001; Boje, 2008; Bochner, 2001) I am going to analyze stories collected in long-term ethnographic project 2013-2014. However, relying on both ethnographic and nethnographic (Kozinets, 2010; Jemielniak, 2013) observations combined with qualitative, unstructured interviews with people working at or collaborating with museum A cannot be separated in this case from auto-ethnography (Doloriert & Sambrook, 2009; Doloriert & Sambrook, 2011; Ellis, 2004; Ellingson & Ellis, 2008; Holman, 2005), as, in order to ease the fieldwork, I became one of the museum's collaborators myself, working as a docent, a guide and an educator.
Celia Wells, while studying women law professors such as herself, stressed that in such a situation it was even more impossible to have no standpoint, and thus as a result her research ended methodologically in between grounded theory and deductive testing of a hypothesis (Wells, 2002).
I also initially planned to start my research project without forming pre-conceptualized hypotheses prior to data collection and analysis, similarly to grounded theory method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), but relying on an ethnographic approach (Schwartzman, 1993; Atkinson, 2001; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003; Madison, 2005; Kostera, 2007). However, during the project the auto-ethnographic aspect of the study emerged, initiating the methodological in-betwenness and raising the question what type of ethnographic research might be prone to gaining an initially unplanned auto-ethnographic aspect with time. Is it a more general tendency? The inseparability of a researcher's subjectivity and what is being studied will serve here both to deepen the analysis of museum A's complexities and to address the question whether it is possible for an ethnographic study not to be auto-ethnographic to a certain extent (Garret & Hodkinson, 1999; Krizek, 2003; Plummer, 2001; Richardson, 1997; Schwandt, 1996).
Bochner, A. P. (2001). Narrative’s virtues. Qualitative Inquiry, 7, 131-157 Boje, D. (2008). Storytelling Organizations, London – Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Doloriert, C, & Sambrook, S. (2009). Ethical Confessions of the “I” of Autoethnography: The Student’s Dilemma, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: an International Journal, 4(1), 27-45. Doloriert, C, & Sambrook, S. (2011). Accommodating an Autoethnographic PhD: The Tale of the Thesis, the Viva Voce and the Traditional Business School, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40(5), 582-615. Ellingson, L., & Ellis, C. (2008). Autoethnography as Constructionist Project. In J. A. Holstein & J. F. Gubrium (Eds.), Handbook of Constructionist Research (pp. 445-466). New York: Guilford Press. Falk, D. & Dierking, L. (2000). Learning from Museums. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press. Fawkner, L. B. (1997). One Museum Discovers the Web. The Journal of Museum Education, 22(1), 12–14. Garrett, D., & Hodkinson, P. (1999). Can There Be Criteria For Selecting Research Criteria? A Hermeneutical Analysis of an Inescapable Dilemma. Qualitative Inquiry, 4, 515-539. Gilmore, A., & Rentschler, R. (2002). Changes in Museum Management: a Custodial or Marketing Emphasis, Journal of Management Development, 21 (10), 745-760. Hawkey, R. (2004). Learning with Digital Technologies in Museums, Science Centres and Galleries. Futurelab Education. Retrieved from http://telearn.archivesouvertes.fr/docs/00/19/04/96/PDF/hawkey-r-2004-r9.pdf Holman Jones, S. (2005). Autoethnography: Making the personal political. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln. (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research, (2nd ed., pp. 763–791). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Jemielniak, D. (2013). Netnografia, czyli etnografia wirtualna – nowa forma badań etnograficznych. Prakseologia, 154, 97-116. Joinson, A. (2003). Understanding the Psychology of Internet Behavior: Virtual Worlds, Real Lives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Jones-Garmil, K. (1997). The Wired Museum: Emerging Technology and Changing Paradigms. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums. Kelly, L. (2010). How Web 2.0 is Changing the Nature of Museum Work. Curator: The Museum Journal, 53(4), 405–410. Kostera, M. (2007). Organizational ethnography: Methods and inspirations. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Kozinets, R.V. (2010). Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online. New Delhi: Sage. Plummer, K. (2001). The Call of Life Stories in Ethnographic Research. In P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland, and L. Lofland (Eds.), Handbook of ethnography (pp. 395–406). London: Sage. Simon, N. (2011). The Participatory Museum. Curator: The Museum Journal, 54(1), 352. Soren, B.J., & Lemelin, N. (2004). “Cyberpals!/Les Cybercopains!”: A Look at Online Museum Visitor Experiences. Curator: The Museum Journal, 47(1), 55–83. Stein, R. (2012). Chiming in on Museums and Participatory Culture. Curator: The Museum Journal, 55(2), 215–226. Wells, C. (2002). Women Law Professors: Negotiating and Transcending Gender Identities at Work. Feminist Legal Studies, 10, 1-38. Welsh, P. (2005). Re-configuring museums. Museum Management and Curatorship, 20(2), 103–130.
University of Leeds, UK
The Politics of Access in Organizational Ethnography
Gaining and continuing access in fieldwork is crucial and many times can be problematic. Yet literature on the topic is relatively rare. The objective of this paper is to examine the intricacies of access, arguing that it is a political process that requires sensitivity to social issues and sometimes the moral dilemmas faced by both the researcher and members of the organization. Researchers often do not anticipate how academic and organization interests may or may not intersect. We frame the process of access as one of infiltration, backstage negotiation, and deflection, exploring the form these may take by using examples from two illustrative cases, where Rafael tried to gain access to carry out fieldwork in two different Brazilian organizations: an important newspaper and a military security force. In both cases the research failed because of the difficulties of negotiating continued access.
At a minimum, access is about crossing boundaries, getting consent “to go where you want, observe what you want, talk to whomever you want, obtain and read whatever documents you require, and do all this for whatever period of time you need to satisfy your research purposes.” (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992: 33). It’s also a relational process (Feldman, Bell and Berger, 2002) that requires researchers to be sensitive to both front stage and backstage dramas (Goffman, 1959) and relationships.
Alcadipani and Hodgson (2009) argue that the consensus in the literature about the acquisition and maintenance of access in ethnographic research is predicated on the successful introduction of a correct set of strategies, and the assumption that the management of certain aspects of the relationship of the researcher and organizational members will result in the researcher being granted access and maintaining it. Consequently, access is portrayed as a neutral and operational task, with little or no ethical consequences.
We argue that access is a far more political process that may be understood in the following ways:
Infiltration – Negative connotation in that it implies secrecy, we are using it in the sense of being deeply embedded in an organization, so that members will be willing to discuss issues. As Punch (1989: 178-9) says, “I use it consciously to emphasize that entry and departure, confidence and trust, and attachment and desertion in the field may sponsor social and moral dilemmas that spell out a virtually continuous process of negotiation of the research role.” We argue that infiltration requires ethnographers to consider a number of issues, the first of which is who is/are the gatekeeper(s)? Infiltration is influenced by:
- Who knows what you want to know.
- Reputational capital: the status, credibility and suspicion of the fieldworker/institution.
- Rhetoric: a narrative that can be used to legitimate the fieldworker’s presence to members of the organization.
- Reciprocity: access may be facilitated when the researcher offers some type of reciprocity to the organization studied.
- Suspicion: in relation to what will happen with the ‘data’.
Backstage dramas: Ethnography requires that the fieldworker is able to move from front stage (superficial or secondary access) to backstage – gaining access to where all the ‘real’ work goes on and to where different people in different positions and at different organizational levels will be open about their views. This may involve a number of issues, including the need to consider:
- What is ‘backstage’? “There is always an inside further inside the inside.” (Ortner, 2010: 215).
- Internal politics. Who has power over whom?
- The subtleties of internal power relations.
- Whether the relationship moves from a purely transactional one to one of mutual benefit?
Deception – “All trades develop a body of conceits that they wish to hide from those outside the boundaries of their domain; so it is with ethnographers.” (Fine, 1993: 289). Such ‘conceits’ may involve: disguising the particularities of our research in order to gain access – particularly to backstage regions; that we may not be entirely open about the purpose of our research because it may impact our ability to gain access; we manage impressions of ourselves and our research; we may or may not ‘like’ what our subjects do and have to disguise this; and being selective about what we write. Writing good ethnography is about writing cultural fictions that never lie, but also never tell the whole truth (Clifford, 1986) because our actions are constrained by “the demands of academic standards, and accepted textual practices” that lead to fieldwork experiences being hidden (Fine and Shulman, 2009: 177). Potential ‘deceptions’ may involve:
- Determining whether you can reveal you are taking a ‘critical’ approach.
- Writing research objectives and questions that appeal to practitioners – to ‘align’ interests.
- Being transparent about the process by which you collect data, i.e. not just by interviews but also by observation. Also, can you reveal contextualized data (about the organization) and your sources (MacLean et al, 2006)?
- To what extent does the researcher play a ‘role’? (Being knowledgeable/playing dummy, acting confident/and handling insecurity)
- Protecting the integrity of your research – in other words, what you can and cannot say.
The above will be illustrated by stories narrated from the field diary of Rafael, written when attempting to gain access to a major Brazilian newspaper (anonymised to NewsCorp) and a Brazilian Military Security Force (FSMB). The purpose of the research at NewsCorp was an investigation into the control and resistance practices of workers. Formal access was obtained in 2009, but Rafael was unable to collect data during his fieldwork because the newspaper employees would not talk to him. After 4 months, he left the field. The purpose of the research at FSMB was to examine the management practices within the institution by observing the day-to-day routine of a unit. In this case, access was formally authorized in 2012, but informally restricted in practice, which also led to the failure of the study. References available on request.
Elena P. Antonacopoulou
GNOSIS, University of Liverpool Management School, UK
The Re-turn to Reflexivity: The Role of Logos and Phronesis in Learning and Changing
That reflexivity forms an integral aspect of personal and collective growth is indisputable. This is echoed by Holland (1999) who acknowledges its centrality in defining human existence, Ashmore et al. (1995) and Woolgar (1988) who appreciate that it is an ongoing process of human becoming in everyday praxis, especially when ethical actions are taken (Johnson & Duberley, 2003). Ongoing debate in relation to reflexivity, continues to show the varied types of reflexivity: e.g. Hyper-reflexivity (Woolgar, 1988); Infra-reflexivity (Latour, 1988); Radical reflexivity (Pollner, 1991); Epistemic reflexivity (Johnson & Duberley, 2003); Practical reflexivity (Cunliffe & Easterby-Smith, 2004). Similarly, if we note the multiple ‘genres’ (Latour, 1988) research and theory development on reflexivity we acknowledge the focus on three dominant themes: Firstly, the focus on problematizing the relationship between researcher and the ‘objects’ and ‘subjects’ of research and methods employed for studying these (Steier, 1991; Bourdieu & Wacquart, 1992; Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000; Antonacopoulou & Tsoukas, 2003). Secondly, the focus on surfacing the intuitive understandings and theories of action of Leaders & Managers and supporting the scope for innovation (Schon, 1983; Senge, 1990; Cunliffe, 2009; Hasu et al, 2012), and Thirdly, the way reflexivity fosters critical education and learning that emancipates through critique (Freire, 1972; Chia, 1996; Antonacopoulou, 2010).
Acknowledging the growing interest in and importance attributed to the power of reflexivity as an integral aspect of individual and organisational becoming, sustainability and innovation, begs the question: Has the ‘Reflexive Turn’ (Weick, 1999) taken place? This paper will argue that perhaps not so, because what is still missing from much research on reflexivity, is an explication of both what reflexive practice entails and how it forms a critical foundation in social actors’ experiences of learning and changing. This focus on reflexive practice provides a fresh lens both to appreciate the ways in which personal and collective growth take place and can provide also a foundation for extending the ways in which managing and management are hitherto understood. To this extend the paper makes a bold invitation to explore what will be termed as the re-turn to reflexivity.
The re-turn to reflexivity is proposed in this paper as a theory of reflexive practice. The Heraclitian notion of ‘logos’ and the Aristotelian notion of ‘phronesis’, are presented as integral aspects of reflexive practice. Heraclitus introduces through logos a principle according to which the world is organized. This principle is the notion of unity not as a single substance but as an arrangement which connects separate things into a determinate whole (Kirk, 1954). This principle, it is argued, provides a valuable means of understanding how the rational coherence underlying our customary experiences of the world is constructed (Antonacopoulou, 2011). Such experiences entail in the meanings individuals deduce, the explanations they attribute to such experiences and the way such explanations are made sense of when they describe them to others who may not share the same experience. In other words, they reflect how individuals balance competing priorities, deal with the internal conflict they may encounter in situations when they are called upon to exercise judgment between good and bad, right and wrong.
The Aristotelian notion of Phronesis (prudence, wisdom or practical judgment) has been receiving attention in management studies and has been employed as a basis for rethinking leadership and management education and more recently managing change (Badham, et al., 2012; Antonacopoulou, 2010a; Eikeland, 2009; Nonaka & Toyama, 2007, Flyvberg, 2001). Across the variety of ways in which the concept has been interpreted, there is general agreement on its basic principle of explaining the ways people act in everyday situations. Phronesis demonstrates through the actions man takes ‘his’ capacity to exercise judgment with regard to what is deemed good or bad (Dunne, 1993). Hence, phronesis is a way of acting, thinking, knowing and living, which reflect the character of man described as phronimos (Noel, 1999) or homo-phroneticus (Antonacopoulou, 2012). Perhaps more intriguing are the processes that are integral to the act of phronesis itself as some scholars laboriously explicate the role of discernment, practical syllogism, insight, wisdom, virtue, and moral excellence (Wall, 2003).
Phronesis then, opens up the scope to better appreciate the practice of judging, acting and living well, where such practices are bounded by personal choice as much as by social, cultural, political and historical values grounded in the communities of practice in which actors perform their work. Put differently, phronesis provides access to the profound tension between self and community (personal and organizational priorities, personal and work identity) and ways this is reflexively worked with in a practising mode (Antonacopoulou, 2008).
However, the re-turn to reflexivity is not limited to understanding aspects of reflexive practice that hitherto have not received attention. The focus of re-turning to reflexivity is also to provide fresh insights about the ways individuals (be they researchers, leaders or managers) engage in practising reflexivity as they negotiate competing priorities, tensions and dilemmas in relation to the everyday practices (of researching, managing etc). In this respect the re-turn to reflexivity is also a proposition for possible methods of practising reflexivity.
Two approaches are currently being developed and tentatively discussed through anecdotal evidence from emerging research findings: Reflexive analysis in verbal dialogue and written narrarive. Building on earlier accounts of the role of dialogic exchange in practising and knowing management (Beech et al. 2011) an approach is developed where the reflexive analysis is heightened in dialogue with another practitioner. Central to the reflexive dialogue is asking questions that provoke the subject to account for their subjectivity and use that as a foundation for reflexively realizing the impact of their practical judgements (phronesis). This draws on Freire’s (1973) notion of ‘conscientisation’ (i.e. a critical reading of commonsense reality) in fostering a phronetic approach to practising managing (Antonacopoulou, 2009; 2010). In other words, the possibility of talking and being ‘challenged’ in dialogue with others provides a way of re-living experiences and with a degree of distancing the reflexive dialogue creates, to account for the judgements that underpin the choices made when acting in particular ways at specific points in time. This focus on choices and judgments goes beyond merely justifying action taking. It invites a critical reassessment of one’s engagement in performing their practices guided not so much by cognition or emotion but by the ways in which the senses inform the approach to sense-making (Antonacopoulou, 2014). This provides the opportunity to step out of the experience in search of fresh ‘ways of seeing’ (see Berger, 1972; Antonacopoulou & Tsoukas, 2003).
This also implies taking account not only of the actions but the contextual (socio-political) forces that would underpin such actions. This is why the focus is in capturing through the reflexive dialogue lived experiences and critical moments that account for the experiences of learning and changing. The verbal dialogue acts as a foundation for a reflexive narrative to be created where such critical moment are remembered and honoured as a lived experience typical in auto-ethnographic accounts (Ellis, 2004).
The focus of the reflexive narrative is to re-view rather than re-present such critical moments. In re-viewing the focus is less on re-living per se, but more on re-cognising what, how and why actions were taken and with what impact. The priority here in reflexivity is to provide a self-evaluative account of the practices performed and their effects. The effects are not intended to account for mistakes or lapses of good judgement (although these issues may be better acknowledged), but to foster a level of reflexive critique that critically reassesses the way the experiences are reflected upon. The latter fosters a greater awareness of one’s subjectivity and in particular the way one is conscientised (Freire, 1973) to re-view their practices. By implication the focus is to account in writing how one recognises in the lived experience moments of personal and collective growth. The latter is about identifying ways of accounting for the experience of learning and changing in time and space (Antonacopoulou, 2014).
Understanding the dynamics in learning and changing presents a unique opportunity to reconsider reflexivity. Reflexivity through this lens can be considered as an act of imagination, a process of wondering, improvising and innovating. By broadening the ways in which we understand reflexivity as a practice we not only embrace the role of practising, learning and changing as integral dimensions of the process. We also allow a greater sensitization to the role of logos and phronesis that have hitherto received little attention. References available on request.
Elena P. Antonacopoulou
GNOSIS, University of Liverpool Management School, UK
Gelson Silva Junquilho
Federal University of Espirito Santo, Brazil
A Reflexive Autoethnographic Analysis of Life Lived: Subjectivity Making a Difference to Managing
“Nobody is ignorant of everything. Nobody knows everything. We all know something. We are all ignorant of something. So we always learn.” (Paulo Freire, 1972)
This paper contributes to the ongoing challenges in qualitative research to understand and adequately represent human life, particularly given that life lived is highly subjective whether accounted for retrospectively or not. This degree of subjectivity, we argue, perhaps stands to make the real difference both in capturing the impact of lived experiences and the difference such experiences make to becoming human through learning. The paper proposes a reflexive auto-ethnographic analysis of human life. It responds to the challenge of personal bias and subjectivity in auto-ethnographic and biographical accounts of lived experience and focuses on the way experiences of learning in time and space are represented and the way narrative accounts for critical moments that set humans free to feel safe being vulnerable in the ways they choose to act (Antonacopoulou, 2014; 2010a). This analysis draws on subjective accounts of a lived experience of managing and critically accounts for the way management was practiced in the context of public administration in Brazil.
Drawing on the autoethnographic approach, stemming from Ellis (2004; 2007), Anderson (2006a; 2006b), Vryan (2006) and Pace (2012), this paper presents an account of the lived experiences of one of the authors during his four year service as the Secretary of Education in a municipality in Brazil. This appointment as a member of local government provided a unique opportunity to temporarily step out of the full time position as Management Professor in a Brazilian Federal University. The analysis presents the auto-ethnographic account of this lived experience of transitioning from research and university administration to public policy management. The case example is built around vignettes of experiences of managing the implementation of a range of initiatives that sought to deliver democratic education in Brazil. It provides a unique account of the ways in which one can reflexively account of one’s practice mindful of the dual identity as researcher and policy maker in practising managing.
The subjective accounts of the examples of managing provide a rare glimpse of the ways in which reflexive critique that invites an elaboration and justification of managerial practices reveals the practical judgments made and the ways these judgments are confined in the socio political context in which practitioners operate (Antonacopoulou, 2010b). In essence, the analysis aims to overcome the dichotomy between ‘analytical’ (Anderson 2006a; 2006b) and ‘evocative’ auto-ethnography (Ellis 2004; 2007). The analysis shows that it is possible to draw on subjective experiences lived that are evocative as a way of providing deeper explanations of how practices (in this case managing) are performed. By understanding how managing was performed in practice, there is still scope to account of the impact of wider socio-political forces that analytical auto-ethnography is also invited to speak to for the purpose of producing theoretical analysis and indicators for generalization. We agree with Vryan (2006: 406) that “whether a particular group or a particular individual is studied, analysis and the production of abstract knowledge is possible”. In other words, we consider the possibility of bringing them together in a way that attains, from a reflexive narrative, some critical social perspectives. In this way, from an individual lived experience captured in a narrative of critical moments, we can think reflexively about managing and the practices through which it is performed.
We would go as far as putting the proposition forward, that subjectivity makes the difference in our efforts to understand some of the intricacies of practising managing. Such intricacies are more than thick descriptions of what practitioners do when they manage, how they do what they do and why they do what they do in the way they do it (Antonacopoulou, 2008). Instead, the reflexivity that it is engaged with reveals the ways tensions and dilemmas integral to practising a practice (in this case managing) offer greater access to the practical judgments and choices made in the midst of the unknown and unknowable.
Moreover, a reflexive auto-ethnographic analysis of life lived provides scope to also think of management as more than applying some prescribed roles – managerial practices. “Doing” management is a process that cannot be understood separately from one’s life/career trajectory, beliefs and judgments. In this sense, by retrospectively capturing a lived experience of managing (in this case in public administration in Brazil), this article intends to provoke an ongoing process of widening the possibilities about the ways we think and seek to represent the practice of managing as the act of “doing” management.
The data that supports the narrative have been “collected” and then “re-collected” in two phases thus provide a longitudinal account of the unfolding reflexivity over time. Firstly, data of critical moments of managing in public administration are presented. These critical moments are extracted from diary notes taken by one of the co-authors during his four year term of service as the Secretary of Education. Mindful of the scholarly background of the subject it was a conscious decision at the time to use these diaries as a way of collecting data about critical incidents especially where calls to judgements were most prominent. In so doing, the subject produced notes and tried to be reflexive about the ways in which he was managing in his role as a Secretary. We can observe in this acting the integration of professional identities as a policymaker and as a professor of management as well.
Secondly, the “re-collection” of data was possible by what we are calling as a process of reflexive analysis in dialogue. Building on earlier accounts of the role of dialogic exchange in practising and knowing management (Beech et al. 2011) an approach is developed where the reflexive analysis is heightened in dialogue with another practitioner (in this case another management scholar, the co-author). Central to the dialogue is asking questions that provoke the subject to account for their subjectivity and use that as a foundation for reflexively realizing the impact of their practical judgements (phronesis). This draws on Freire’s (1973) notion of ‘conscientisation’ (i.e. a critical reading of commonsense reality) in fostering a phronetic approach to practising managing (Antonacopoulou, 2010b). In other words, the possibility of talking and being ‘challenged’ in dialogue with others provides a way of re-living experiences and with a degree of distancing the reflexive dialogue creates, to account for the judgements that underpin the choices made in acting in particular ways. This focus on choices and judgments goes beyond merely justifying action taking. It invites a critical reassessment of one’s engagement in performing their practices guided not so much by cognition or emotion but by the ways in which the senses inform the approach to sense making (Antonacopoulou, 2014). This provides the opportunity to step out of the experience in search of a fresh ‘way of seeing’ (see Berger, 1972). Through a “renewed” reflexivity: no more as the Secretary, but as a professor the reflexive dialogue provokes an appreciation of the subjectivity of practising managing. The verbal dialogue acted as a foundation for the reflexive narrative of the past re-viewed by accounting for critical moments. In this sense, the current use of a reflexive narrative is a way of remembering and honouring a lived past, as suggested in Ellis (2004).
In summary, the contribution of this paper is that it shows the importance of subjectivity as lived experiences are captured through reflexive auto-ethnographic accounts of critical moments that highlight beyond the judgements and choices made in practising managing, why the act of “doing” management is an unpredictable and unknown process.
Anderson, L. (2006a). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35 (4) 373-395. Anderson, L. (2006b). On apples, oranges and autopsies. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35 (4) 450-465. Antonacopoulou, E.P. (2008). On the practise of practice: in-tensions and ex-tensions in the ongoing reconfiguration of practice. In Barry, D. & Hansen, H. (Eds.). Handbook of new approaches to organizations studies, 112-131. London: Sage. Antonacopoulou, E. P. (2010a). Making Waves: Moments when Ideas are Set Free. In A. Carlsen and J. Dutton (Eds.) Generativity in Qualitative Research. 158-161. Copenhagen: CBS Press. Antonacopoulou, E. P. (2010b), Making the Business School More ‘Critical’: Reflexive Critique based on Phronesis as a Foundation for Impact. British Journal of Management Special Issue ‘Making The Business School More “Critical”’, 21: 6–25 Antonacopoulou, E.P. (2014) The Experience of Learning in Space and Time. Prometheus. Forthcoming. Beech, N., MacIntosh, R., Antonacopoulou, E.P. and Sims, D. (2012) Practising and Knowing Management: A Dialogic Perspective. Management Learning, 43(4): 373-383 Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. California: Altamira Press. Ellis, C. (2007). Telling secrets, revealing lives: relational ethics in research with intimate others. Qualitative Inquiry, 13 (1) 3-29. Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Freire, P. (1973). Education for Critical Consciousness, New York: Seabury Press. Pace, S. (2012). Writing the self into research: using grounded theory analytic strategies in autoethnography. Text, special issue 13, 1-15. On line:
http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue13/Pace.pdf Vryan, K. (2006). Expanding analytic autoethnography and enhancing its potential. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35 (4) 405-409.
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this paper was made possible by an awarded grant from CAPES Foundation in affiliation with the Brazilian Ministry of Education (Proc. n° BEX 3502/13-9).
University of the West Indies, Barbados
Hypothesizing socio-cultural sensitivities of front-line employees – a case for interpretive phenomenological analysis
Purpose: This paper presents a review of the existing literature that discusses the use of interpretive phenomenological analysis in understanding the delivery of service quality from the perspective of the front-line employee in a tourism enterprise.
Design / Methodology / Approach: A review of the literature discussing the philosophical approaches of phenomenological hermeneutics purported by Husserl and Shultz used to inform research methods that explore the service encounter in a multicultural work environment. A comparison will be made to the theoretical constructs of the SERVQUAL model within which the dyadic interactions in the service encounter are examined to assess service quality.
Findings: This review can be used to model a framework of analysis within which the socio-cultural influences that drive or inhibit the delivery of service quality can be classified. The framework will induce hypotheses that can be further tested and analyzed by other qualitative or quantitative methodologies and methods.
Research limitations / implications: The application of the theorizing will review service encounters that occur within tourism enterprises in an island destination. Islands represent a culturally bound construct and tourism is a complex multi-cultural phenomenon. The research will highlight the socio-cultural realities enshrined in the historical development of the tourism in an island and consequently the validity of the hypothesis may have limited or conditioned applicability.
Practical implications: The hypothesis induced within this philosophical approach seeks to validate the input of one of the proponents in the service encounter that impact on experiencing service quality. Mangers of tourism enterprises in mature island destinations will be able to use this framework in their decision making as they seek to maintain or innovate quality within the service experience of their enterprise.
Originality / value: This review seeks to add to the scholarship that validates the use of qualitative research methods, particularly phenomenology and its philosophical approach to revealing meanings in routine experiences. The paper also contributes to knowledge of service quality by proposing culturally bound constructs within which quality can be continually assessed and innovated.
Kozminski University/Linnaeus University, Poland
Merging research, education and local development – Semi-focused groups for an Engaged Scholarship
Despite a few obvious exceptions, there is a general tendency in the social sciences to address the explicit and articulated knowledge of the respondents by separating reflection from everyday action. (Bill & Olaison, 2009) The knowledge of how to deal with situations encountered in everyday life can however differ from the knowledge of how to answer questions regarding how to deal with such situations. (Polanyi, 1958; Rorty, 1982; Putnam, 1995) This line of thinking goes back at least to Wittgenstein’s famous question regarding “how a clarinet sounds” in §78 of Philosophical investigations (1953). Semi-focused groups has been suggested as a means of overcoming this obstacle, (Bill & Olaison, 2009; Bill, Johannisson & Olaison, 2009) but the potential of such an approach to data gathering includes also a transformative aspect that is further explored in this paper.
In order to overcome the practical obstacle of observing actual behaviour closely associated with the research topic, a semi-focused group faces the participants with an open ended task designed by the researchers. Such a task is fictional in the sense that it is created by the researchers but still realistic enough to be something they could be faced with in their everyday lives. The participants are encouraged to take on a role that is close to their actual lived experience and then to solve the task before them together. They are, however, not informed of what the attending researchers intend to study, thus forcing them to focus on problem-solving (that is using their knowledge of how to solve the problem) rather than representing the knowledge of how to talk about a specific topic. (Bill & Olaison, 2009) This approach has been perceived as a valuable alternative to traditional fieldwork in cases where it is difficult to arrange such, (Seabra Lopes & Durăo, 2011) but also offers transformative opportunities by allowing researchers to act as a specific kind of change agents.
Since no specific template that outline solutions are introduced the participants need to utilise their own skills and creativity in order to generate possibilities. Thus, in a research project on Rural Entrepreneurial Enclaves, semi-focused groups where used to gather accounts of what the participants collectively and spontaneously considered important for the development of their region.
However, this material also formed the basis for a second and more interactive stage in the research process. In this second stage, the academics and undergraduate students participating in the project incorporated themselves into projects and acted as a kind of catalysts together with local stakeholders.
In short, the research was designed as a sequential four stage process. The first stage (I) was to identify and establish contact with local stakeholders in the selected regions. The second stage (II) was to conduct a series of semi-focused groups. These semi-focused groups were identical in all regions and consisted of a fairly general task. The participants should consider themselves the steering committee of a local interest-group that had been given funding to hire a “local developer”. Presented with the applications of the four leading applicants the task was to rank them from suitability as well as device a number of questions to each applicant in preparation for an upcoming interview. The candidates differed significantly and the semi-focused groups was recorded and subsequently transcribed. The third stage (III) consisted of the researchers and undergraduate students analysing the resulting material in order to identify dominant themes and topics. Based on this analysis eight projects was identified, tentatively designed and then reintroduced to the groups of local stakeholders. The fourth stage (IV) was incorporating the undergraduate students in project groups in order to manifest actual projects. The senior researchers functioned as supervisors for the undergraduate students.
The obvious advantage of this approach is that practise and education, as advocated by pragmatist researchers in pedagogy, (i.e. Freire & Freire, 2004; Dewey, 1998) is being conducted together bringing knowledge creation into the lived experience of both the students and the local stakeholders involved in the project. Thus, it furthermore makes possible closer co-operation between research and the current processes in the surrounding society and has an emancipating capacity in that the interaction is being carried out on the initiative of the local stakeholders in areas emanating from their experience of everyday life. Thus regional energy may be generated and expressed in action by the local stakeholders themselves.
However, inherent in the research design there are also a number of impediments that need to be pointed out and to some extent addressed. Firstly, the design of the task is very delicate since it is necessary that the participants take ownership of it, which normally requires them to consider it reasonable as well as interesting. In this project this was quite obviously the case, the idea of recruiting a local developer even seemed rewarding to the extent that the participants asked us researchers if it might be possible to actually find funding for such a function in future research grants. Secondly, it is important to allow for the participants to set the agenda in the sense that the projects that emanates from the third stage are actually their projects. There is a tendency among the participants to emulate what is done elsewhere, if on a smaller scale. Also, as we sat down together with the students we, as we have realised afterwards, probably also tended to pick out projects that seemed “reasonable” to us – which probably increased the impact of this “copycat” phenomenon. When using this method in the future we will have to develop a more systematically critical approach to project selection, in order to get a mix of copycat and more unique projects.
Bill, Frederic & Olaison, Lena, 2009 “The indirect approach of semi-focused groups: Expanding focus group research through role-playing” in Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal vol. 4(1) pp:7-26 Bill, Frederic, Johannisson, Bengt & Olaison, Lena, 2009 “The Incubus Paradox: Attempts at Foundational Rethinking of the ‘SME support genre’ ” in European Planning Studies vol. 17(8) pp:1135-1152 Dewey, John 1998 The essential Dewey. Vol. 1, Pragmatism, education, democracy. Freire, Paulo & Freire, Ana Maria Araújo 2004 Pedagogy of hope: reliving Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New ed.]. London: Continuum Polanyi, Michael 1958 Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy. London: Routledge & K. Paul Putnam, H., 1995 Pragmatism Oxford and Cambridge, Blackwell Rorty R., 1982 Consequences of Pragmatism Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press Seabra Lopes, Daniel & Durăo, Susana, 2011 “Ethnography beyond anthropology: potentials and problems” in Social Anthropology, vol 19(4) pp:520-527 Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Blackwell
Debra J. Borkovich & Robert Joseph Skovira
Robert Morris University
The Influence of French National Culture upon an American Workplace
In an era of global and technological competition, foreign corporate ownership of U.S. companies is more prevalent than ever. Over sixty years of business studies reflect that due to cultural misconceptions, international corporate misunderstandings and discord often occur. Hofstede (1996) argues the connection between national and organizational cultures is circular and unavoidable; they cannot be separated. This paper is a description and analysis, as an agile ethnographic inquiry (Skovira, 2010), of a parent company’s organizational culture and ethnic influence, which is French, upon the organizational culture of its U.S. subsidiary corporation. This essay describes and analyzes the cultural disconnects, miscues, and contradictions between two affiliated companies which differ in nationality. This agile inquiry explored how a French corporation, embodying French culture, framed its interactions with its subsidiary American company; and fully expected the subsidiary company, its child, to patently understand and unquestionably accept it’s meanings.
This essay describes how the consequences of this influence manifested in a culture clash of high and low context situations, divergent systems of meanings, dissimilar language, vocabularies, and idioms, differences in business practices and customs, and awkward social situations. This paper suggests that the influences of French national culture, the self- and world-proclaimed arbiter of good taste, are inherent in the organizational culture of the French corporation and French management style. This strong national unified French culture, so different from the U.S. melting pot of immigrants, influenced the organizational culture of its American subsidiary resulting in an almost paralytic culture shock (Oberg, 1960) from which it never fully recovered. The essay describes how differences in nationality, coupled with foreign ownership, global business practices, management styles, and language are often sources of contradiction, conflict, misunderstandings, and uncertainty.
The paper discusses how a French parent company displayed influence, power, and control over its American workforce and leadership group. Mumby (1988) argues that organizational power and control stems from hegemonic cultural domination; and his theory offers support that this U.S. subsidiary became the victim of its own lack of national, organizational, and occupational cultural awareness and intelligence. One might say that in this scenario, hegemonic national cultural domination resulted in a paralysis of culture shock, seriously jeopardizing a company’s economic viability, growth, and social-cultural maturity.
This ethnography describes how the high context of French business culture never aligned nor reconciled itself to understanding the American predisposition and comfort in a low context environment (Hall & Hall, 1990). And low context Americans, who expected explicit meeting agendas, powerpoint presentations, clock-management, and fixed schedules made no sense to the French who demanded its employees to be implicitly prepared, debate-prone, philosophical, socially-networked, and wired-in to HQ and each other at all times. The business meeting venue presented a fertile social environment to observe and interpret these disparate systems of meanings that formed the bedrock of each national and organizational culture.
For instance, the French preferred to operate among their own personal networks of intimate relationships and tacit understandings. During meetings they were perfectly at ease clustered closely together while sitting or standing, polychronically jumping off-topic, and effortlessly moving from English to French when a tête-à-tête was warranted. And the French were well-aware that being bi-lingual provided added business advantages of confidence, power, and intimidation. Just observing this public intimacy made the Americans uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, and over-whelmed preferring their monochronic tasks, detailed briefings, personal space, adequate elbow-room, the sound of American English, and their Western protocol to take all private conversations off-line or out-of-site. But despite their lack of French language skills, the Americans had a silent secret weapon that confounded their sophisticated French counterparts. They had kinesics (Birdwhistell, 1970). Body language was not disguised by the Americans who often exhibited their frustration, boredom, and stress, particularly when meetings appeared to be out-of-control, did not resolve open issues, and attendees were not free to leave on time. They stretched, groaned, yawned, rocked their chairs, rolled their eyes, and checked their watches and smartphones. The French, who perceived time as elastic, considered these American reactions as incredibly rude, not realizing that linear Americans perceived time as an invaluable commodity, merely desiring to commence the next meeting or task. These and other incongruous nationalistic and organizational practices and customs were disconcerting to both the French and the Americans due to a mutual lack of understanding, a dearth of empathy, and an unwillingness to learn from each other.
The paper suggests that Geertz (1973, p.13) was correct when he elegantly argued that the “mastery of a country’s language . . . does not mean that we understand the people. Finding our feet . . . encompasses much more than talk.” Although this agile ethnography did not discover a cohesive intercultural mesh between a French parent company and its U.S. subsidiary, it revealed a number of unresolved cultural issues, problems, and controversies, and consequently raised almost as many questions as it answered. This study revealed that a strong nationalistic singularly-focused cultural group can have considerable influence, power, and control over a nascent weaker organizational group with multiple worldviews and fields of experience; one that has not yet “found its feet.”
Birdwhistell, R. L. (1970). Kinesics and context: Essays on body motion communication. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. Hall, E. T., & Hall, M. R. (1990). Understanding cultural differences. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, Inc. Hofstede, G. (1996). An American in Paris: The influence of nationality on organization theories. Organization Studies, 17(3), 525-537. Mumby, D. K. (1988). Communication and power in organizations: Discourse, ideology, and domination. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Oberg, K. (1960). Culture shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology, 7, 177-182. Skovira, R. J. (2010). Agile ethnography: A re-imaging of ethnography for use in organizational life. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Computer Information Systems, School of Communications and Information Systems, Robert Morris University, Moon Township, PA.
Gregory Bott & Dennis Tourish
Royal Holloway, University of London
Critical realism in leadership studies: The application of the critical incident technique
For the past 20 years there have been numerous calls for a greater diversity of research methodologies and methods exploring leadership (e.g. Bryman, 2011; Bryman et al. 1996; Collinson and Grint, 2005). Current leadership methodologies “have a tendency to replicate existing paradigms rather than discover new possibilities” (Shaw, 2010, p 89). In this study, the author responds to this invitation through the employment of the critical incident technique (CIT) to underpin a critical realist approach to leadership studies. Critical realists recognize that social actions take place within the context of pre-existing social structures, whereby the actors make decisions within the circumstances directly encountered (Smith and Elger, 2012); an aspect the authors argue is essential to leadership studies. This paper outlines how the use of the CIT has been used in recent leadership studies. In doing so, the authors draw primarily on recent fieldwork whereby 53 executive directors, board chairs, and board directors of Canadian nonprofit organizations were interviewed using critical incident interviews. The purpose of the study is to analyze nonprofit board member behaviors in a leadership context. A better understanding of how boards function in a group and leadership setting, and how this impacts their respective organizations and organizational performance, provides the nonprofit sector with both theoretical, as well as practical, recommendations for improving board governance in a leadership context.
Critical realism in leadership studies: It is clear that the field of leadership studies is dominated by a positivist paradigm (Collinson and Grint, 2005; Bryman, 2011), which tends to draw heavily on behavior description questionnaires (Yukl 2012; Bryman, 2004). Collinson and Grint (2005) similarly note “studies of leadership have typically drawn on a narrow range of functionalist theories … using positivist methodologies, and producing quantitative findings” (Collinson and Grint, 2005, p 7). In a recent critical assessment of charismatic and transformational leadership research van Knippenberg and Sitkin (2013) similarly note: “[We] also need to recognize that continuing on the route we have been traveling for these many years is unlikely to advance our understanding much further, and instead of building on the current state-of-the-science, leadership research will benefit more from a fundamental reconsideration of research in charismatic-transformational leadership” (2013, p 9).
Positivist research has been criticized for having strict methodological rules that are independent of the context of the particular research focus (Kvale and Brinkermann, 2009). The authors contend this is a systemic flaw in most leadership studies, whereby contextual influences are commonly ignored (Peus et al., 2013; Bryman et al., 1996). In this paper the authors argue that a critical realist perspective can provide a valuable alternative to traditional leadership studies. Critical realists claim that the “world is composed not only of events, states of affairs, experiences, impressions, and discourses, but also of underlying structures, powers, and tendencies that exist” and that scientific explanation entails “providing an account of those structures, powers and tendencies that have contributed to, or facilitate, some already identified phenomenon of interest” (Patomaki and Wight, 2000, p 223). Hence, critical realists are able to recognize that social actions take place within the context of pre-existing social structures, whereby the actors make decisions within the circumstances directly encountered, but also that such circumstances and history would not exist without such actors (Smith and Elger, 2012).
Critical incident technique: Looking through the lens of critical realism, this study uses a descriptive qualitative analysis approach whereby the CIT (Flanagan, 1954) is adopted. Adding the CIT to your research methods helps to focus the participant (Sharoff, 2008: Bradley, 1992), allowing the researcher to capture much richer details then would be obtained even through the traditional semi-structured interview (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003; Gremler, 2004; Keaveney, 1995). It also allows the researcher to further clarify feelings and meanings that may be attached to certain incidents (Sharoff, 2008; Keatinge, 2002). The fact that the technique centers on actual events while discouraging hypothetical situations (Collis and Hussey, 2009; Moss et al., 3003), whether observed or recalled, ensures the corresponding behavioral data relates to actual behaviors. Similarly, by allowing the respondent to choose the incident elicits events that are important to those who lived them (Cunha et al., 2009). This further promotes the inductive nature of the technique (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003; Cunha et al., 2009; Norman et al., 1992; Sharoff, 2008; Schluter et al., 2007; Wolff et al., 2002) for collecting, analyzing, and presenting data. Although the CIT has not been used extensively in leadership research, a number of authors have recently been enlighten to the benefits of the technique (e.g. Pescosolido, 2002; Lapidot et al., 2007; Druskat and Wheeler, 2003; Lewis et al., 2010; Krause et al., 2007).
Semi-structured critical incident interviews were used to collect behavioral data from 53 participants (board chairs, board members, and executive directors) from 18 diverse nonprofit organizations in Alberta, Canada. Although interview themes are coded inductively, the results are also compared to existing leadership theory, primarily transformational leadership theory, for theoretical agreement of the exploratory findings. This approach allows the author to identify contextual differences in leadership that are not prevalent in current leadership theories (e.g. transformational leadership – a theory largely built through quantitative studies).
Summary: In this paper the author concurs with the aforementioned critical assessments of the state of leadership (specifically transformational leadership) research (e.g. van Knippenberg and Sitkin’s (2013) contention). Recognizing that organizations are co-created and co-defined by multiple actors (Tourish, 2012), this project looks through the lens of critical realism, taking the stand that leadership and governance involve social actors and to generalize or to claim that a definitive truth can be discovered would be a considerable leap of faith (Laughlin, 1995). Furthermore, critical realism is used to underpin critical incident semi-structured interviews, as critical realism enables the researcher to “utilize interviews and other social research methods both to appreciate the interpretations of their informants and to analyze the social contexts, constraints and resources within which those informants act” (Smith and Elger, 2012, p 4).
Bradley, C.P. 1992, "Turning anecdotes into data—the critical incident technique", Family Practice, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 98-103. Bryman, A. 2004, "Qualitative research on leadership: A critical but appreciative review", The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 729-769. Bryman, A. & Stephens, M. 1996, "The importance of context: Qualitative research and the study of leadership", Leadership Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 353-370. Bryman, A. 2011, "Mission accomplished?: Research methods in the first five years of Leadership", Leadership, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 73-83. Collinson, D. & Grint, K. 2005, "Editorial: The Leadership Agenda", Leadership, vol. 1.1: 5-9. Cunha, M.P., Cunha, R.C. & Rego, A. 2009, "Exploring the role of leader—subordinate interactions in the construction of organizational positivity", Leadership, vol. 5, 1: 81-101. Druskat, V.U. & Wheeler, J.V. 2003, "Managing from the boundary: The effective leadership of self-managing work teams", Academy of Management Journal, vol. 46, no. 4: 435-457. Flanagan, J.C. 1954, "The critical incident technique", Psychological Bulletin, vol. 51, 4: 327. Keatinge, D. 2002, "Versatility and flexibility: Attributes of the Critical Incident Technique in nursing research", Nursing & Health Sciences, vol. 4, no. 1-2, pp. 33-39. Krause, D.E., Gebert, D. & Kearney, E. 2007, "Implementing Process Innovations: The Benefits of Combining Delegative-Participative With Consultative-Advisory Leadership", Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 16-25. Laughlin, R. 1995, "Empirical research in accounting: alternative approaches and a case for “middle-range” thinking", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 8, 1. 63-87. Patomäki, H. & Wight, C. 2000, "After postpositivism? The promises of critical realism", International Studies Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 213-237. Pescosolido, A.T. 2002, "Emergent leaders as managers of group emotion", The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 583-599. Sharoff, L. 2008, "Critique of the critical incident technique", Journal of Research in Nursing, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 301-309. Shaw, J. 2010, "Papering the cracks with discourse: The narrative identity of the authentic leader", Leadership, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 89-108. Smith, C. & Elger, T. 2012, "Critical Realism and Interviewing Subjects", Royal Holloway University of London, 2012. (School of Management Working Papers; WP-1208). Tourish, D. 2013, "‘Evidence Based Management’, or ‘Evidence Oriented Organizing’? A critical realist perspective", Organization, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 173-192. Van Knippenberg, D. & Sitkin, S.B. 2013, "A Critical Assessment of Charismatic—Transformational Leadership Research: Back to the Drawing Board?", The Academy of Management Annals, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1-60. Yukl, G. 2012, "Effective Leadership Behavior: What We Know and What Questions Need More Attention", Academy of Management Perspectives, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 66-85.
Margaret M. Brooks
The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication,
Arizona State University, USA.
Consultations on Conflict: How Executive Coaches Describe and Rationalize, the Dark Side of Female Assertiveness in the Workplace
This study examines executive coaches’ descriptions of female assertiveness in the workplace and the ways in which the subjective evaluation of this assertiveness both contradicts traditional feminine gender stereotypes and causes conflict in organizations. Women’s employment is even more important in an economy that continues to see job losses among men with frightening frequency. As more women enter the workforce, increasing numbers of employees now have a female boss. However, as women ascend the corporate ladder and become more empowered through their job responsibilities and success, their adoption of socially accepted “masculine” gender norms and communication styles often leads to conflict and casts them in a negative light. In an effort to reduce this conflict and create a better work environment, many companies now contract executive coaches to counsel high potential, high earning women in their workplace behavior.
The study presented here makes a notable contribution to the field of qualitative organizational communication research by focusing primarily on the related experiences of executive coaches who counsel and advise managers and other high-level employees in organizations. Executive coaches represent a unique and valuable perspective for organizational communication researchers to explore. Because they possess the training and firsthand knowledge required to provide valuable input and observations concerning conflict in organizations, the executive coaches in this study represent organizational practitioners who are “on the ground” and can share their stories with thoughtfulness and a sharp eye for detail. Their input and sensitized perspective on issues such as gender and conflict in the workplace have until now been relatively unexplored.
In-depth, semi-structured interviews with 17 executive coaches resulted in over 210 pages of single-spaced transcriptions. The majority of participants had over ten years of experience in executive coaching; the three who did not had either worked at or near the executive level for the majority of their career before becoming a coach. During these interviews, coaches described female assertiveness in organizations through their personal experiences working with clients in this regard. A metaphor analysis of these descriptions revealed the extent to which coaches framed female assertiveness in a negative light. Metaphors were either related to violence (She left bodies in her wake) or directly related masculine concepts to women (She’s like a stallion that needs tamed).
Further analysis uncovered coaches’ four predominant rationales for these metaphors concerning the dark side of women’s assertiveness and its ensuing conflict in the workplace. The first was that women are reluctant to help other women in certain work environments, lending a competitive edge to their communication. Second, female assertive behavior is more common in male-dominated fields where women emulate their successful male colleagues’ demeanors and communication behaviors. Third, generational differences have led to a lack of female mentorship in the workplace wherein older generations of women who have fought to hold their positions resent instant gratification expectations and communication behaviors from their younger counterparts. Lastly, the “second shift,” wherein women try to balance dualistic responsibilities both at work and at home, negatively influences their workplace behavior.
I then recall the descriptive metaphors from the first round of analysis and layer them over these four rationales as sensitizing concepts to help organizational researchers and practitioners understand how and why a culturally accepted metaphor can be traced back to one of these four underlying issues. Because this study is contextually situated in the shadow of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the spotlight of powerful women such as Marissa Mayer, these findings reveal the implications and, perhaps, consequences of being an assertive woman in the workplace.
From a methodological perspective, this paper strives to expand the formats available for qualitative researchers to report their data analysis and findings by following Sarah Tracy’s “iterative writing logic for inductive research.” Rather than the traditionally scientific, linear progression of a research report (literature review, method, results, discussion), this paper seeks to better reflect the inductive nature of qualitative research by detailing a first round metaphor analysis followed by prospective conjecture and a more focused analysis with both organizational and cultural implications for women in the workplace.
From a theoretical perspective, this study expands the current research and understandings of gender stereotypes and the conditions under which those stereotypes may be challenged and/or appropriated to multiple genders. The findings also contribute to understanding the importance of mentorship for young women in the workplace, as well as literature surrounding what is and is not constituted as workplace bullying.
Sheffield University Management School
University of Sheffield, UK
Capturing and (re)presenting subjectivities: Examining soundscapes of voice/silence in organisational life.
This paper explores and reflects on methodologies for (re)presenting lived experiences of organisational life. Drawing from perspectives on ethnographic poetics (Denzin, 1997), poetic method (Maréchal and Linstead, 2010) and sensual methodologies (Warren, 2008), I examine the potential of soundscapes to ‘capture’ and ‘show’ something of the deeply lived experiences of life inside a care home. The soundscape aims to (re)present subjectivities of older people residing in care homes, particularly experiences of poor care. The soundscape attempts to show how the absence-presence of voice and silence plays through the social formations of organizational life (Mumby and Stohl, 1991). Voice refers to both expression and as the ability to construct knowledge, to act and to exert power within the care home institution (Deetz, 1992; Putnam and Boys, 2006).
Elsewhere we have examined difference as mechanisms for colonizing older people into corporate systems of care – processes that organise ageing and produce ‘resident identities’ (Burns et al., 2013). It is at the point an older person enters a care home that they are swiftly separated from their previous life world, experiences and relationships (Burns et al., 2013). Within residential homes managers and staff organise the bodies of older people as they talk about them, touch them, assign them to rooms, allow (or forbid) them to go for walks and give permission (or not) for them to control their own medications (Martin, 2002). Subjectivities are mediated (and limited) through organisational process and practices, routines and prescribed care practices. As difference becomes the organising principle for institutional life, resident subjectivities are narrowed and voice suppressed (Burns et al., 2012, 2013).
The research study I draw on to explore these issues, examined the organizational dynamics of respectful care and mistreatment in residential care homes providing care to older people in the UK. In this study a comparative case study analysis (Eisenhardt and Graebnor, 2007) was undertaken with eight care homes and I worked as the field researcher for seven of the cases. I spent a 6 week period at each of the care homes obtaining informed consent from participants, undertaking observations of day to day activities and semi-structured interviews with residents, family members, staff and care home managers.
The soundscape has been constructed through the re-ordering and censoring of vocal sounds during a small section of an audio recording of a research interview with Lilly – a resident in one of the homes case studied. In the original recording, Lilly and I are conversing about her concerns for the standards of personal care she receives, how she has felt frightened of a member of staff and how her body has been left unwashed and dirty. In the conversations (during the recorded interview and following it) a discursive struggle emerged around the Lilly’s request for me not to act on what she has said during the interview (as she ‘doesn’t want to get anyone into trouble’) on the one hand and the actions I am obliged to take given this knowledge on the other. I am expected to follow procedures for safeguarding residents from harm in operation in the care home and care regulations set locally and nationally. If the action I take, involves not voicing this knowledge about poor care, the poor care continues and Lilly may be at risk of harm. Yet to voice this knowledge to staff may also have negative consequences for Lilly. Presently, silence has afforded her self-protection from repercussions (Putnam and Boys 2006).
Through our discussions, Lilly and I agree a particular line of action and knowledge construction. I would voice my concerns (not Lilly’s) in a confidential conversation with the care home manager, making clear that Lilly wasn’t complaining. Rather, I was following the home’s guidelines and was passing this information on to the care home manager. Following my conversation with the care home manager about the poor care, my construction of the issue was translated overnight to a problem of unrealistic expectations of Lilly’s for ‘hotel level care’ as shown in the extract from my field notes:
I went into the office to let the manager know I had arrived. She brought the subject around to the resident I had spoken to her about in confidence and the level of care they had reported having. When I reported the poor care to the manager yesterday she said she was going to talk to the resident about it and not in a way that would make the resident feel uncomfortable. She said she would do one of her ’walk rounds’ where she speaks to each resident and asks how they are and if there are any things she should know about. But today the manager said (and in front of the home’s administrator) that ‘Lilly expects too much, we can’t cater for the wants of every individual, we can’t provide special treatment’. The administrator joined in saying ‘she can’t have hotel level care’. (Field note observation).
The ways in which soundscapes might usefully ‘capture’ and (re)present the deeply lived experience of living with poor care and its impacts are considered. Specifically, the soundscape focuses on (re)presentations of guarded expression, and voice as challenge and silence in organisational life. Organisational cultural norms, processes and practices render it possible for residents to voice and portray an organisationally acceptable ‘resident identity’ (Burns et al., 2013). As these possibilities are demarcated, so are the discursive closures of voice – the reinforcement of difference and limitations to subjectivities. Soundscapes might offer a way to ‘capture’ something of the limits placed on what it is possible for residents to voice and that which remains ‘beyond words’.
Burns, D., Hyde, P. Hassard, J. and Killett, A. (2013) Colonizing the aged body and the organisation of later life. Paper presented at the 29th EGOS Colloquium, Montreal. Burns, D. Hyde, P. and Killett, A. et al (2012) Participatory organizational research: Examining voice in the co-production of knowledge. British Journal of Management. On-line first Oct 2012. Deetz (1992) Democracy in an age of corporate colonization. Albany NT: State University of New York Press. Denzin, N.K. (1997) Interpretive ethnography: Ethnographic practices for the 21st Century. London: Sage Martin, P.Y. (2002) Sensations, bodies and the ‘spirit of the place’: Aesthetics in residential organization for the elderly. Human Relations, 55, 861-885. Mumby, D.K and Stohl (1991) Power and discourse in organization studies: Absence and the dialectic of control. Discourse and Society 2(3): 313-32. Maréchal, G. and Linstead, S. (2010) Metropoems: Poetic methods and ethnographic experience. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(1): 66-77. Putnam, L. and Boys, S (2006) Revisiting metaphors of organizational communication, in S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B Lawrence and W.R. Nord (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Organization Studies. London: Sage, pp 541-576. Warren, S. (2008) Empirical challenges in organizational aesthetics research: Towards a sensual methodology. Organization Studies, 19(4); 559-580.
Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work,
RMIT University, Australia
Ethnographic practice: an ontological odyssey?
'Tell us more about your ethnographic methods’ is what reviewers all too often ask of me. They invariably need me to elaborate on specifics, assuming that there is some kind of predetermination to my ethnographic practice. Perhaps there should be. Yet, when I am in the field, I am 'merely' my self. There is a certain taken-for-grantedness about what I do, which I find difficult to articulate in writing. I do not design interventions, or prepare questions; my practice as a researcher is to follow, ask, note, gather, and learn. Some call this shadowing (e.g. Czarniawska-Joerges, 2007; Gill, 2011), others bricolage (e.g. Cunliffe, 2003; Turkle, 2007).
It is this 'mere' being in the field that I aim here to reflect on and reveal as a nuanced embodied practice that has been learned via intersubjective moments in both research settings and other situations through my life. In doing so, I have two objectives. The first is to discursively interpret and articulate my taken-for-granted embodiment. The second is to conceptualise this as an ethnographic ontology, and thereby draw out my implicit epistemology and discrete methods that I struggle to explain.
This paper first returns to my previous submission to this conference, in which I reflected on my belongingness in or to the field (Butcher, 2013a). In that paper I began to uncover my ontology through a narrative of symbolic interactions and the 'apprenticely' disposition I acquired in a particular research setting. It is a selfhood I had learned previously in similar situations; and it one I continue to adopt, adapt and refine as an ethnographer. It is intersubjectively reflexive identity work and a form of situated learning.
From the identity work (e.g. Ashcraft, 2007; Brown and Lewis, 2011) and situated learning (e.g. Cunliffe, 2008; Wenger, 2000) literature, I use this paper to first understand the philosophical underpinnings of the current debate about what it is to be apprenticely. I then delve into current thinking on the reflexive intersubjectivities of qualitative research and what it is to be ethnographic (e.g. Butcher, 2013a; Cunliffe, 2011). This establishes a theoretical framework with which to examine my being and practice as a researcher.
Using autoethnographic narrative (Ellis et al., 2011), I aim to make sense of the identity work and learning practices that I co-construct with participants to establish my self in a research setting. I write three short sub-narratives by re-reading three recently written papers from three separate ethnographic studies and reflecting on those experiences (Butcher and Judd, in press; Butcher, 2013a, 2013b). I also draw on my bricolage of memories, fieldnotes, photographs, film, and other artefacts collected from each of those studies. Writing those new narratives enables me to identify and unravel my ontology, the identity work I undertake, and my learning practice.
I synthesise those three sub-narratives to find an overarching narrative of cumulatively inscribed experiences, which I reimagine as an ongoing apprenticely journey to embed my self in a research setting and gain a deeply rooted sense of belonging (after Butcher, 2013a). Hence I offer a conceptualisation of my ethnographic practice as an ontological odyssey; a never-ending journey of becoming.
In depicting this learning journey I draw out particular methods I use to establish my self and learn from others. This, most importantly, provides me with a repertoire with which to report my research methods in future, and enhance it. I therefore appreciate the limitations of my ontology, and explore opportunities to reconceptualise ethnographic methods as both identity work and situated learning. Hence, I use this paper to explain my ethnographic practice using a language that is of interest to mainstream methodologists.
Ashcraft, K.L. (2007) Appreciating the “work” of discourse: occupational identity and difference as organizing mechanisms in the case of commercial airline pilots, Discourse & Communication, 1(1), pp9–36. Brown, A. & Lewis, M. (2011) Identities, Discipline and Routines, Organization Studies, 32(7), pp871 –895. Butcher, T. (2013a) Longing to Belong, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 8(3), pp242–257. Butcher, T. (2013b) Coworking: locating community at work, in: Proceedings of the 27th Annual Australia New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference, Hobart, Australia, December 4-6. Butcher, T. & Judd, B. (in revision) Cultural encounters with sporting organisation: Ethico-politics at the interface of Indigenous culture and organisation, in: Rhodes, C. & Pullen, A. (Eds.), Handbook of Ethics, Politics and Organizations, Routledge, London, UK. Cunliffe, A. (2003) Reflexive Inquiry in Organizational Research: Questions and Possibilities Human Relations, 56(8), pp983–1003. Cunliffe, A. (2008) Orientations to Social Constructionism: Relationally Responsive Social Constructionism and its Implications for Knowledge and Learning, Management Learning, 39(2), pp123–139. Cunliffe, A. (2011) Crafting Qualitative Research: Morgan and Smircich 30 Years On, Organizational Research Methods, 14(4), pp647–673. Czarniawska-Joerges, B. (2007) Shadowing: And Other Techniques for Doing Fieldwork in Modern Societies, Copenhagen Business School Press, Denmark. Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011) Autoethnography: An Overview, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), pp n/a. Gill, R. (2011) The shadow in organizational ethnography: moving beyond shadowing to spect-acting, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 6(2), pp115–133. Turkle, S. (Ed.) (2007) Evocative objects: things we think with, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Wenger, E. (2000) Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems, Organization, 7(2), pp225–246.
J. Garpue Lieway
William V.S. Tubman University, USA
Dr. Jonathan W. Camp
Abilene Christian University, USA
Assimilation barriers, lost status, and family destabilizations: Perspectives of African Refugees on organizational challenges in the US
To many African refugees, work has cultural and spiritual meanings that they honor and must not blur. But as soon as they arrive to their host country and enter organizational life, circumstances often force them to alter those meanings and values they once held for work (Semlak, et al. 2008; Shandy & Fennelly, 2006; Teixeira & Li, 2009). We propose a paper presentation that explores the perceptions of African refugees regarding the organizational and occupational challenges they experience in a mid-sized Texas city.
We frame our study with Gudykunst’s (2005) Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory to explain intercultural adjustment (assimilation) issues that refugees experience in host countries. We conducted a series of interviews and focus groups with 19 African refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, ranging in age from 30 to 65 years old, who have settled in a mid-sized Texas city. In addition, the lead author, an African immigrant himself from Liberia, collected approximately 50 hours of field notes from observing an African immigrant family in their home. After transcribing the audio recordings of the interviews and focus groups, we conducted a systematic qualitative content analysis, using NVivo 8.0 software, to identify emergent themes in the data from interviews and field notes.
Three themes emerged from the data analysis:
- Barriers of cultural assimilation in the workplace
- Loss of professional status once held in country of origin
- Family destabilization related to spousal work obligations
Related to barriers to cultural assimilation, we found that African refugees miss communal life that they enjoyed at work in their home country as they struggle to adjust to isolation, language barriers, individualism, and discrimination that they experience at work in their host country. The participants voiced a desire to work collaboratively in such work that reflects communal values, but felt confined to work according to more individualistic values. Furthermore, language barriers posed a challenge to cultural assimilation as they isolate African refugees at work, an experience the refugees dread every day. Participants expressed their frustrations at having to use demeaning forms of communication—signs, drawings, pictures, body language, and children less than 10 years old—to communicate their needs to employers and to healthcare and social service providers.
A second theme relates to the perceived loss of organizational status African refugees once held in their country of origin. Not only did refugees voice concern over the loss of professional titles and relatively larger salaries—important status symbols in their countries of origin—but they also experienced the demeaning transition from the sophisticated, decision-making work as medical doctors, professors, lawyers, managers, directors, pastors, and teachers to primarily working in service jobs that often require less than high school education. This loss of organizational status often translated to a loss of status within the immigrant community. Such loss creates undue psychological and emotional stress, which can further complicate the cultural assimilation process.
A third theme relates to the challenges that different organizational expectations pose to the refugees’ family structures in the host country. For example, participants displayed patriarchal attitudes such as the belief that the male spouse is the spiritual head and breadwinner of the household. Participants also expressed fear for losing or blurring these expectations as the loss of status and income in the host country force both spouses to work to make ends meet. We found that some female spouses did not want to work because they felt it would compromise respect for their husbands and result in their inability to care for their family. Some of the participants also expressed the fear that female spouses could achieve financial independence, which would further threaten family stability.
These themes converge on each other, creating complex, systemic challenges to organizational and occupational success for the African refugees in the US. Social workers, policymakers, and business managers, and resettlement agencies should understand and appreciate these challenges before they can make any meaningful improvements in the process of employing African refugees.
Gudykunst, W. B. (2005). An anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory of strangers’ intercultural adjustment. In Gudykunst, W. B. (Ed.), Theorizing about intercultural communication (pp. 419—458). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Available from http://www.afirstlook.com/main.cfm/theory_list Semlak, J. L., Pearson, J. C., Amundson, N. G., & Kudak, A. D. H. (2008). Navigating dialectic contradictions experienced by female African refugees during cross-cultural adaptation. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 37(1), 43-64. doi: 10.1080/17475750802077396 Shandy, D., & Fennelly, K. (2006). A comparison of the integration experiences of two African immigrant populations in a rural community. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work, 25(1), 23-45. Teixeira, C. and Li, W. (2009). Immigrant and Refugee Experiences in North American Cities. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies (Special Issue) 7(3), 221-227.
Andy Kai-chun Chuang
Communication Arts and Sciences
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Their stories/My research: A Critical Reflection of Ethnographic Organizational Communication Research
My research interest in the intersections between a critical rhetorical approach and a performance perspective to organizational communication has deeply influenced my view of the relationship between academic writing and everyday lived experiences. This interdisciplinary perspective helps me realize that it is necessary to construct the skill and the space to unpack the taken-for-granted nature of life. Therefore, I wanted to jump into the field and discover the reflective and meaningful conversation from the community I intended to study when I was a graduate student. What I did not expect is the challenge and distrustful attitude of my motive from the community. In this essay, I reflect how my experience of doing fieldwork warrants a necessary discussion of the researcher’s self-reflexivity in order to make sense why such challenges happened in data collection. McKerrow (1989) indicates that the critique of freedom in a critical rhetorical project should involve in a self-reflexivity about writing and thinking. In addition, the challenges I encountered in fieldwork also had an impact on my writing and allowed me a space to discuss the problem of speaking for others (Alcoff, 1991). Through this self-reflexive critique, I examine my assumptions and positions in my dissertation project, defended in May 2013 (Chuang, 2013).
The data collection process made me reconsider certain questions and politics of my dissertation project. Whose interest does this project serve? Did I just use the participants for the research purpose? Do I just want to fulfill my curiosity of commercial airline pilots through this project? Where were cultural nuances that the project did not account for? Ultimately, why does always the tension exist between the researcher and the participants? These questions reveal that I could not avoid personal, cultural, and organizational sensitivities in my research. The challenges I encountered in the fieldworks also made me reconsider my own subjectivities and my embodied performance as an academic researcher in my dissertation project.
Academic research and writing is indeed the core practice of academic life, but one important ethical consideration of contemporary ethnography is, “Whose story? Whose research?” The challenges of writing and editing combined with the hardship of fieldworks of my dissertation project created a space to discuss the problem of speaking for others (Alcoff, 1991).
Alcoff (1991) indicates that speaking for others, as a discursive practice, is under criticism and being rejected under some circumstances and in some communities. Alcoff (1991) further argues that as a researcher in academia, we are authorized to express and encompass the ideas, needs, and goals of others though theories, but we also have to reconsider whether this discursive practice of speaking for others is a legitimate and valid practice, and what criteria for validity we should look into. Therefore, I asked myself, “Do I speak for my participants?” When I transcribed my field notes to participants’ personal narratives, how did I “edit the voice” in order to keep the characters and communicative ability of them (Goodall, 2000, p. 165)? Revisiting decisions I have made for editing and writing challenge my position as a researcher in my dissertation project. Do I speak for my participants? Or do I speak about my participants? Alcoff (1991) argues that it is almost impossible to speak for others without mentioning information about them, and researcher may speak about others as an advocate.
Alcoff (1991) further brings up the act of representation by pointing out that both speaking for and about others engage “in the act of other’s needs, goals, situation, and… who they are” (p. 9). Therefore, I constructed participants’ “subject-positions” and did not just discover their “true selves” in this project (p. 9). As a researcher, the specific subject-positions I speak for and about others create “their selves” through the discursive practices, and this type of representation should not just a simple act of discovery and should have an impact on the individual who is represented (Alcoff, 1991, p. 10). That said, I hope my readers of this project can attach to what they have read from my participants’ subject-positions of discursive practice I presented even though the readers may never heard of those stories (Alcoff, 1991).
Overall, this critical reflection essay argues that the acts of both speaking for others and speaking about others require researcher to put the body in the performance (Madison, 2009). The process from fieldwork to writing up in my dissertation project forced me to learn to be vulnerable and move my own body “through the space and time of another…for the purpose of knowledge [and] for the purpose of realization and discovery” (Madison, 2009, p. 191). Even though the rejections from potential participants, and challenges from fieldworks and writings created a hard situation for me to struggle and finish my dissertation project, I felt that my “[r]esponse, response-ability, and responsibility [are] aligned with advocacy and ethics” (Madison, 2009 p. 192). I understood that I had the responsibility to actively assist others and to learn their “tactics, symbols, and everyday forms of resistance” in order to create platforms for those who still struggle to be known and heard (p. 192). I wanted to tell about what I have heard, learned, and felt from my participants in the field through performance to my audiences. I also understood that I represented my participants’ identities and narratives, and the ethical consideration of the representation requires me to provide opportunities for them to have the ability to respond (Madison, 2009).
Conducting this ethnographic research helped me understand my/participants’ behaviors and life worlds, and (un)conscious needs and desires, and it further taught me to make performances doing the labor of advocacy ethically and reflecting my responsibility because performance will transform a reality, reflecting who I/my participants am/are and what I/my participants can become (Madison, 2009).
Alcoff, L. (1991). The problem of speaking for others. Cultural Critique, 20, 5-32. Chuang, K-C. (2013). Performing the personal within the organizational: Communicating professional identities through Taiwanese commercial airline pilots’ personal narratives. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Denver, Denver. Goodall, Jr. H. L. (2000). Writing the new ethnography. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Madison, D. S. (2009). Dangerous ethnography. In N. K. Denzin & M. D. Giardina (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry and social justice: Toward a politics of hope (pp. 187-197). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. McKerrow, R. E. (1989). Critical rhetoric: Theory and praxis. Communication Monographs, 56, 91-111.
University of South Florida
Department of Communication
Banking on the poor?: Universalizing discourses of social initiatives under the guise of ‘value’
Even though management and organizational scholars continue to explore the different empirical, theoretical, and multidisciplinary issues embedded in the various aspects of corporate communication, corporate images, and corporate identities, it has been rare for such researchers to look at these activities as strictly rhetorical. Pedagogically, scholars tend to refer to such considerations as “strategic communication,” eschewing still the traditional perspective that these are resources and strategies of persuasion. There may be several reasons for this avoidance, perhaps chief among them the negative connotations of the word “rhetoric” as used by the public, suggesting it is “mere rhetoric” or language meant only to flatter or deceive, without content or morality. Scholars of rhetoric, however, have not been so remiss as to ignore the fact that organizations and corporations are key voices in our society today, issuing strategic, persuasive messages to their employees, their stockholders, their consumers, and the public at large who must sometimes endure their mistakes and consequences.
This paper challenges conventional readings of these corporate forms of communication by highlighting how the ‘rhetoric’ of shared value (Porter & Kramer, 2006, 2011) is used as a strategic rhetorical ‘package’ by transnational corporations that proactively addresses the importance, ends, and means of managing one’s corporate identity. Specifically, I articulate how the concept of shared value implicitly furthers the language and rhetoric of corporate identity through a unique form of imperialism by producing sophisticated forms of business strategies and universalizing discourses that gloss over or ignore asymmetrical power relations between organizations and disenfranchised groups while promising to resolve societal ills. Using the examples of various shared value initiatives including Hindustan Unilever’s ongoing Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetna campaign to promote improved hygiene and the microloan programs of Citigroup and Standard Chartered Bank, I examine under what discursive conditions such corporate assistance is provided to the world’s poorest populations.
I explore what are the most troubling aspects of these organized forms of organizational social exercises including how they further a form of othering or the rhetorical construction and portrayal of specific organizational stakeholders as being unequal while paradoxically providing rewards or the promise of empowerment. I end by assessing the extent to which this market-driven optimistic form of managerial culture contributes to neoliberal and global forms of corporate governance and if it can provide the basis for permanent positive change. This discussion enriches our understanding of how the concept of shared value can be utilized to foster self-serving relationships between corporations and their audiences, the role of rhetoric in that endeavor, and the implications for our perceptions of what ways rhetoric can transform ideas of corporate identities, global capitalism, and the role of the nation-state.
Kozminski University, Poland
University of Warsaw, Poland. Institute of Sociology
Economization of emotions at the workplace – how personal and social relations at work become objectified and managed
The importance of interpersonal and emotional managerial skills and their development within HR programs and trainings is an important sign of the growing influence of psychology in management studies. This process can be seen within a framework of critical writings addressing an issue of an extending dominance of economic logic in different spheres of social life (Foucault 2010, Illouz 2007, Rose 1998, Sennett 2006, Dembek 2013). Personal and social competencies, such as expressing emotions, building interpersonal relations or motivating and influencing people, have become crucial professional skills required from managers. These competencies – being precisely defined, evaluated, exercised and measured – tend to somehow lose their subjective, personal dimension and become a set of company’s and manager’s assets. What is particularly interesting, most of them have explicitly emotional character. Manager’s emotions and affects have become his/her basic professional tools.
In recent years in social sciences we observe the rise of interest in the mutual relations between emotions and economy. They are discussed – on the one hand – as a process of colonization of the private sphere by the market. The private life of individuals and intimate relations are seen as managed by economic logic (Bauman 2003, Illouz 1997, Rose 1999). On the other hand, different activities and human actions in the reality of late capitalism are contingent upon emotions and affects. These processes seem to have gained the new dynamic since the work of the pioneers such as Max Weber (2010), Georg Simmel (2004), Albert O. Hirschman (1977) or the authors associated with the Frankfurt School. Everyday life of individuals in contemporary capitalism is saturated with emotional content in such different contexts like workplace, consumption, advertising and media. While working and consuming, people are expected to perform ‘an affective work’ by identifying and managing their emotions and feelings (Illouz 2007, Hochschild 2003). The agents operating on the market intentionally refer to emotions and feelings of their business partners and clients. New fields of economic activity, such as the experience economy (Pine, Gilmore 1999) are developing. Behind all these phenomena there is – I presume – the assumption of the (direct or indirect) relation between emotional quality of the product or activity and its economic value. Therefore, we observe the dynamic development of different kind of psychological expertise that create and manage the technical knowledge of emotions, usable and useful for business.
Being already developed in advertisement and marketing, nowadays economization of emotions’ concept is exercised within HRM theories and practices (Espeland 1998, Urciuoli 2008). The dynamic market of personal and business trainings and coaching along with HR consultants’ services delivers methods and tools of shaping and measuring human behavior in order to intentionally engage emotional features and attitudes of managers and employees in producing economic value.
In my paper, I’d like to discuss an issue of rhetoric justification and ‘naturalization’ of the economization of emotions. On the basis of my doctoral research findings, combining discourse analysis of trade journals addressed to HR managers and deepened qualitative interviews with managers, business trainers and coaches, I will elaborate different discursive strategies of economization of emotions’ legitimization. The two most important ones turn out to be (1) the reference to an expertise of psychological science, and (2) a ‘naturalization’ of cultural new middle class’ ethos, particularly self-realization and self-control requirements.
I would also like to argue that the economization of emotions’ process needs to be analyzed focusing both on an individual experience level (how individuals respond and adapt to a cultural requirements of emotions’ management and their commodification) and knowledge-production level. The latter allows to depict the mechanisms of creating and managing technical knowledge of emotions. We observe an emergence and growing strength of the new ‘experts on emotions’, such as coaches, business trainers, HR consultants, market researchers and PR experts who are engaged in creation and making use of the technical knowledge of emotions and emotions’ management. This expertize aims to objectify the subjective dimensions of interpersonal and emotional relations. The assumption of emotions’ economic value leads to efforts of reorganizing the rules of social relationships (for instance at the workplace) in order to manage them according to economic criteria of effectiveness, efficiency and usefulness.
Bauman, Z. (2003) Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds, Polity Press, Cambridge. Dembek, A. (2013). The contemporary model manager as a new man the creator, International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 103-115 Espeland, W. Nelson, Stevens, M.L. (1998). Commensuration as a Social Process. Annual Review of Sociology, 24: 313-343 Foucault, M. (2010). The birth of biopolitics : lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979. New York: Picador Hirschman, A.O. (1977). The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments For Capitalism Before Its Triumph. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Hochschild, A.R. (2003). The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: The University of California Press. Illouz, E. (1997) Consuming the Romantic Utopia. Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Berkeley, Los Angeles, University of California Press, London.
Illouz, E. (2007) Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, Polity Press, Cambridge. Pine, B.J., Gilmore, J.H. (1999). The Experience Economy. Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Rose, N. (1998) Inventing our selves. Psychology, power, and personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rose, N. (1999) Governing the Soul. The Shaping of the Private Self, Free Association Books, London, New York. Sennett, R. (2006) The Culture of the New Capitalism, Yale University Press, New Haven. Simmel, G. (2004) The Philosophy of Money, Routledge, London. Urciuoli, B. (2008) Skills and selves in the new workplace. American Ethnologist 38,2: 211-28. Weber, M. (2010). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Martino Publishing.
Hyunji Doh & Donnalyn Pompper
Temple University School of Media & Communication
Beyond the Wounds: The SCAR Project as Space for Female Breast Cancer Patients’ New Gender Identities
Breast Cancer Awareness Month and walk-a-thon fundraising campaigns have habituated society to the noble cause, but have over-saturated the landscape with visual cues that ignore realities of female breast cancer patients as they struggle to make meaning about their post-mastectomy bodies. In fact, pink ribbon imagery promotes women’s bodies as conventionally beautiful and sexy; a disconnect with women’s actual lived experiences with breast cancer. Hence, female breast cancer survivors often feel negated as they encounter slick, sexy pink ribbon campaign magazine ad images and beautiful spokesmodels. A safe harbor, however, has been the Pulitzer-prize-nominated Surviving Cancer: Absolute Reality (SCAR) project, created in 2010 by fashion photographer David Jay and promoted on Facebook for breast cancer patients to resist abnormalization as defined by traditional conventions used to characterize female gender identity in terms of body image and femininity. The website is unabashedly up-front about featuring real-life stories and photographs of nude-torsoed women with scars left after mastectomy.
This study combined use of a qualitative data computer-assisted textual analysis program, Nvivo 10, with hermeneutic phenomenological textual analysis to interrogate voices of women who maximized Internet public space to contest body image norms and to reclaim or redefine their own conception of femininity. Three theory streams undergirded this inquiry: feminist counter-public sphere, social identity, and body image. Feminist counter-public sphere is the space which permits contestation and allows subordinated social groups to fully participate (Fraser, 1990). Social identity theory promotes investigation of intergroup relations and interrogations of the social self (Turner, 2010). The concept of body image – how women perceive weight, body size, and appearance – is used to critique media representations and ways they are used (e.g., Pompper & Koenig, 2004). The current study was designed to investigate how female breast cancer patients’ perceptions of body image and femininity are negotiated in a world where traditional beauty norms do not account for side effects of cancer treatment and surgery.
The hermeneutic phenomenological textual analysis was inspired by van Manen (1990). Procedures enable researchers to steep voices in a context of lived experiences, to identify common themes and anomalies, and to describe phenomena in order to respond to research questions. Thus, textual interpretation serves as the primary aim of hermeneutics as researchers connect language, reflection, understanding, and the self (Ricoeur, 1976). The Nvivo 10 program is based on a grounded theory approach to data analysis and, thus, is useful in maintaining richness for in-depth understanding and meaning of data in its original context. This is because all data retrieved following coding contains an identifier of the original data source and retains links with the original data documents. Research questions for this study were developed to gain understanding about female cancer patients’ body image and perceptions of femininity:
RQ1: How do female breast cancer patients address their post-mastectomy body image on The SCARS Project
RQ2: How do female breast cancer patients negotiate notions of femininity post mastectomy on The SCARS Project
Findings in response to RQ1 suggested two themes. The first is Degrees of Acceptance/Rejection among female breast cancer patients with regard to their bodies which are considered “abnormal” in conventional female body image terms. Stories included recognition of and resistance to surgery and therapies as these impact perceptions of body image. Moreover, women interpreted their scar according to a second theme of Loss, Victory, & Revival. Findings in response to RQ2 suggested two themes of: Seeking & Offering Help/Support and Relationship Building/Sisterhood. First, women who posted on The SCAR Project Facebook page redefined feminine identities in terms of seeking and offering help and support. Stories revealed ways that women who survived breast cancer have metamorphosed from passive people who witnessed a symbol of femininity being severed from their bodies to active participants promoting their own healing and offering encouragement to others also renegotiating their sense of femininity. Second, women revealed experiences in relating with caretakers and physicians as they went from nurturers to someone being nurtured and joined in gender solidarity for new and powerful femininities.
Overall, data analysis revealed that The SCAR Project Facebook site functioned as an arena where breast cancer patients redefined their female gender identities – in terms of body image and femininity. This was inspired by photographs of breast cancer patients’ real bodies; a portal for generating talk about situatedness at the margins and resistance against conventional female body image representations and traditional femininities. Female breast cancer patients’ feminine identities were redefined as active, related, and positive – but contrary to ways promoted by pink ribbon campaigns. Many women accepted surgery and therapy as part of their body experiences so that they might redefine the meaning of their post-mastectomy scars within themselves and among others.
While research findings are limited by the scope of study design, they offer valuable new insights into a painful topic that runs counter to beauty and youth images promoted by pink ribbon campaigns. Future research projects may include inquiries into other social media fora with regard to breast cancer and integration of various qualitative research methods.
Fraser, N. (1990). Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. Social Text, 25/26, 56-80. Pompper, D., & Koenig, J. (2004). Cross-cultural-generational perceptions of ideal body image: Hispanic women and magazine standards. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 89-107. Ricoeur, P. (1976). Interpretation theory: Discourse and the surplus of meaning. Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University Press. Turner, JC (2010). Toward a cognitive redefinitions of the social group. In H. Tajfel (Eds.), Social identity and intergroup relations. (15-40). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. pp. 27-109.
Western State Colorado University
Department of Business, Accounting & Economics
Researching the Lacking Subject: Inquiring into Subjectivity from a Lacanian Perspective
Psychoanalysis has made a longstanding and well-recognized contribution to the study of organizations (e.g. Gabriel et al., 1999). More recently Lacanian psychoanalysis in particular has been advanced as being relevant for understanding the complexities of subjectivity in organizations today offering a novel and complementary approach to researching key dimensions from a qualitative perspective (Arnaud and Vanheule, 2013). The purpose of this paper is to begin outlining a Lacanian approach to qualitative research using the narrative construction of identity as an illustrative case. While prior research has described key elements of a Lacanian perspective on organizational studies in general (Arnaud, 2002; Stavrakakis, 2008) and discourse analysis in particular (Parker, 2005), to date there has not been a comprehensive mapping of how to use Lacanian ideas in practice when it comes to qualitative, empirical studies of organizational phenomena. The present paper hopes to provide at least the rudimentary outlines of such a mapping exploring how one may go about collecting and interpreting data from a Lacanian perspective.
To this end, the paper proceeds as follows. A brief outline of key Lacanian ideas is followed by a discussion of what these ideas may mean for researching subjectivity in organizations examining the purposes and general approaches to qualitative research in general from a Lacanian perspective. This is followed by a more detailed discussion of how to collect and interpret data using the narrative construction of identity as an illustrative case focusing particularly on storytelling as a research method and the interpretation of stories for the purpose of illuminating conscious and unconscious dynamics of subjectivity. The paper concludes by discussing some of the ramifications of a Lacanian approach particularly with regard to producing publishable research. The paper highlights that a Lacanian approach does not provide the truth of subjectivity in organizations today but one perspective for understanding its complexity, elusive nature and power as an emancipatory force.
The Lacanian Subject: Central to understanding how Lacan theorized the human condition (1977a;b;1988a;b; 1991; 2001) is the idea that human beings are subjects of lack (Stavrakakis, 2008). This means that all subjects are driven by the desire to cover up lack but continue to experience that they are unable to do so. Even with psychoanalysis there is no cure for this lack (Johnson and Gudmand-Hoyer, 2010). Instead, conscious identity work and how we narrate the self, is marked by a continuous failure through which lack is circled and reiterated. On the one hand what is consciously articulated in an attempt to define identity, and importantly desire, is an alienated ego fantasy (Stavrakakis, 2008), an imaginary construction by which objects of desire can be circumscribed and pursued (Driver, 2009 a;b;c). On the other hand this imaginary construction is continually undermined by unconscious desire, or rather the inability of all the fantasies of wholeness and fulfillment to ever come near in obtaining what is really desired, namely a return to a pre-symbolic (prior to language) real enjoyment (Stavrakakis, 2008).
From a clinical perspective, the means that Lacanian analysis does not offer a cure nor the hope of ever uncovering the truth of the subject by way of arriving at an interpretation, for instance, of what is said so that a deeper truth can emerge that would then allow the person to be cured from lack and this continuous but failed search for what might render him/her complete and whole. Instead, Lacanian analysis, like all psychoanalysis, focuses on language and discourse, not by uncovering a hidden truth but by allowing the person in analysis, the analysand, to experience that lack is both inevitable and structural (Driver, 2009a) and that there is also a radical difference (Parker, 2005), a uniqueness to each subject in how this lack is reiterated in a specific case. In other words, the struggle all subjects face in seeking to defend against a monstrous ontological lack (Johnson and Gudmand-Hoyer, 2010) is not unique, but the fantasies created by each subject in the process are unique, creative and to some extent liberating (Driver, 2009a; 2013).
By examining discourse carefully and becoming aware of how imaginary constructions and fantasies routinely fail in ambiguities, tangents, omissions, contradictions and other rhetoric creations (Driver, 2013), it becomes possible to experience how powerful and creative the struggle with lack and desire makes us. In short, by examining how the self is narrated ordinarily and in every day articulations, opportunities are opened up to become aware that who we say we are and what we say we want are likely not what we consciously articulate. We continue to feel that what we obtain and what we chase are never what we really want. We have the sense that this is not it every time we think we have just found it (Driver, 2009b). And no matter how much we analyze this discourse, we will still not find what it is. Yet, what we do find is that we are driven by an unquenchable and powerful desire to continue the search. In the process we are unique and creative in all our attempts and free from the constraints imaginary constructions put on us as they all inevitably fail.
Researching the Subject in Organization Studies: What this means for seeking to understand subjectivity in organizations is that first of all the subject one may seek to examine is not a knowable object. The truth about the subject is not what is articulated or what another person, such as a researcher, may infer or interpret about what is articulated. The subject literally is not there or rather it is only an absence made present. Its truth is what is not there, what is systematically excluded or repressed (Parker, 201), the lack that is circled and reiterated. This lack may be amplified (Driver, 2009a) and brought to the fore but it cannot be turned into a positive truth or a definitive object or answer. Even an analyst or a skilled researched cannot do this. All that one can do is to encounter and experience a narrative from within in order to underline its potential patterns, connections and inevitable breaks. Moreover, in doing so, the interpreter is him or herself engaged in an imaginary undertaking in overcoming his or her own lack. As such, analysis is always a form of creative imaginary construction especially from a research perspective in which lack is defended against by appealing to scientific truth or academic conventions.
Consequently, researching the subject from a Lacanian perspective goes much beyond the well-received insights produced especially by qualitative researchers that objective truth either does not exist or is meaningless and that, in particular, the subject must be understood in relation to language that is always malleable and polyphonic (Rogan and de Kock, 2005). Indeed a Lacanian perspective may well push the general turn in organization studies toward symbolism, linguistics and hermeneutics (Gabriel, 1991) beyond its current boundaries. While this perspective would certainly affirm that language and discourse are central to subjectivity and that they are always open to multiple and even infinite interpretations (Gabriel, 1991), it also insists that subjectivity like language and the symbolic order are marked by lack.
As such, everything that is worth “knowing” or researching is what is not there. Importantly, there is never a perspective that is more elevated or outside of the particular discourse one examines. All discourse is lacking and imaginary and a researcher cannot claim otherwise (Parker, 2005). As such, all one can do is to engage with a discourse and perhaps trace its fissures (Driver, 2013) but one can never claim to reveal its truth or what is real. The researcher like the subject is always barred from the real, divided by conscious attempts to overcome lack and unconscious disruptions of the former pointing to something that is missing, the absence made present in all narration.
The Case of Narrative Identity Research: If one way of understanding the subject of organization is to study identity, then perhaps it is possible to illustrate the Lacanian perspective further by examining how this popular research area might be approached with the Lacanian framework. There now is quite a substantial body of research on how identity is constructed by individuals in organizations (e.g. Watson, 2009). There also seems to be agreement that identity is not only narratively constructed but that such constructions are not fixed but rather continuously in process (Sveningsson and Alvesson, 2003). Nonetheless, even when interpretations are tenuous and reflexively undertaken while underlining their polyphonic nature and the multiple performances and readings that any text may prompt (Boje et al., 1999), there nonetheless are interpretations made. Both small and big identity stories (Schachter, 2011) are examined and insights are generated about particular identities and ongoing identity work in organizational settings (Sveningsson and Alvesson, 2003).
However, from a Lacanian perspective this would only represent the tip of the iceberg of narrative identity research and not go far enough to capture the complexities of subjectivity. First of all, it would need to be recognized that all identity narratives are foremost imaginary constructions whose main purpose is to cover over fundamental lack (Driver, 2009a;b). This would necessitate, in turn, not a devaluing of narrative validity or of the credibility of research subjects, i.e. a belief that somehow the narrators do not know what they are talking about or are intentionally deceiving others or even themselves. Rather this would necessitate a general skeptical attitude toward all accounts typical for psychoanalysis (Gabriel et al., 1999). That is, doubt is required about the face value of any accounts. However, this doubt cannot be motivated by a conviction that one can uncover their truth but rather that any truth is always outside of conscious narration and interpretation.
Second, even if one is able to trace patterns of imaginary constructions in identity narratives, such patterns do not reveal anything more than where the repression may occur. That is, even if one can name what the narrator seems to say about him or herself, such naming is only interesting in the sense that it allows one to look for what remains unsaid. In turn, what remains excluded and unsaid cannot be positively identified as a truth or what is real. All one can deduct from what is missing is that there is a disruption, a disturbance of the imaginary and as such there might be moments experienced by the narrator that may point to creative struggle, empowerment and liberation.
Researching the Subject in Empirical Practice: Keeping in mind this necessarily brief and rather broad sketch of a Lacanian perspective on researching subjectivity in organizations, I will now attempt to provide an outline of practical implications. Again, keeping with the case of narrative identity research, the first issue to address is for what purpose data may be collected. In view of a Lacanian perspective, it should be obvious by now that the purpose of getting research subjects to share narratives cannot be to positively identify who they are or what they want. Moreover, in view of the idea that Lacan believed that any ordinary discourse constitutes an attempt at constructing the self in imaginary fashion, it might also not even be necessary to prompt respondents to share specific identity narratives but rather to have them say or write anything they wish or anything having to do with a particular area of inquiry. In keeping with psychoanalytic organizational research (Gabriel et al., 1999) structured questions may not lend themselves well to examining patterns of exclusion in discourse but rather allowing free association or storytelling may work more effectively (see also Gabriel 1995; 1998; 2000). Also, of course a great deal of reflexivity is needed in interacting with research participants beyond the usual ethical concerns to include issues over the co-construction of imaginary identities between researcher and researched, see Harding ( 2007) and how the narratives may be addressed to an imaginary construction of the researcher as subject supposed to know (Driver, 2009c).
Once narratives have been collected, they either already are written texts, such as when written accounts are collected (Gabriel, 1997) or will be transcribed and turned into written texts. This is where then narrative analysis may take place. Again the purpose of such an analysis cannot be to distill truth or positive identification, rather the purpose can merely be to engage with the text from the inside and avoid as much as possible to turn the subject into “an object of knowledge” (Parker, 2010: 166). Fundamentally, then the interpretation of identity narratives would not be about distilling themes, summing up what is said or unraveling their real meaning. Instead, the analysis would be to highlight all that might not make sense and how what might not make sense may disrupt “the flow of a text” (Parker, 2005: 168). A useful way of putting this into practice may be to trace the fissures in a given narrative underlining how the imaginary constructions are repeatedly broken apart of at least show indicators of tensions and minor cracks, see Driver 2013).
In highlighting the fissures, the aim again would not be to arrive at definitive conclusions about what the narrator may be lacking. Even a self-proclamation by a narrator saying that he or she know what is missing would only be another imaginary covering up of lack rather than its revelation (Driver, 2013). So it is not about interpreting what is missing but rather about laying open the discontinuities. Interpretation from a Lacanian perspective must remain open-ended and inconclusive, fostering disagreement rather than agreement (Parker, 2005: 175), pointing to the Russian doll quality of any discourse, that one can never step outside of language and that there is no meta-language with which to do so (Parker, 2005). All one can do in highlighting the fissures in identity narratives is to point to creative struggle and the uniqueness of the subject in its reiteration of lack and the desire to overcome it.
While it is beyond the scope of this paper to address the entire research process beyond general methodological and philosophical concerns, it may be worth pointing out that obviously it is difficult to conduct research from a Lacanian perspective in view of producing publishable research. Given that Lacan (1991; 2001) not only believed that it was impossible to define the truth of a subject beyond that which it is lacking and that he specifically described science as an imaginary undertaking designed to overcome lack for those who participate in it, it would obviously be impossible to remain consistent with his approach while producing any truth claims or generalizable findings certainly in a positivist tradition but also in the interpretivist paradigm. Lacanian research is not an exercise in hermeneutics (Parker, 2005; 2010). From my own experience I know that this makes publication outlets rather in short supply. It also makes the review process particularly arduous not the least because reviewers themselves also have imaginary claims on authors and rarely provide a space for creative struggle and emancipation (Driver, 2007).
Having said all this, there are nonetheless outlets and ways of engaging with editors and reviewers that make it possible to publish Lacanian organizational research. The key is to stress that while one does not aim to make claims to truth, it nonetheless resonates widely with the experience of subjects in organizations today particularly in view of the fantastical qualities of organizations and their unmanaged subjective spaces (Gabriel. 1995). In short, a Lacanian approach may be one way to do justice to the complexity of subjectivity and, specifically, to examine how identities are not only constructed but how they routinely fail and how, through this failure, members of organizations even in the most coercive contexts engage in creative and liberating struggles lack and desire. References Available on request.
Carrie M Duncan
Truman School of Public Affairs
University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA
Sara R.S.T.A. Elias
Trulaske College of Business
University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA
(Inter)subjectivity and the Research Pair
Writing ethnographic fieldnotes is one method for processing researchers’ subjective experiences in organizational fieldwork (Emerson et al., 2011; Giminez & Pinel, 2013). Through the writing process, subjectivity is foregrounded and becomes the primary means of understanding what it’s like to be there. Moving beyond subjectivity, fieldnotes that are developed collaboratively by two researchers - literally a research pair - become a means of triangulating across subjectivities (Hollway & Jefferson, 2000) and enhancing researchers’ understanding of the field. In this paper, we draw on our experiences in one organizational study to explore the reflective process of writing fieldnotes and the simultaneous development of intersubjective agreement (Cunliffe, 2011) in the research pair.
We use the concept of countertransference, borrowed from contemporary psychoanalytic theory, to inform our efforts to raise awareness of the subjective experience of self and other in the field (Devereux, 1967; Diamond & Allcorn, 2003). Paying attention to countertransference in the field, and within the research pair, raises awareness about how the personal attributes, past experiences, and personalities of the researchers shape their perceptions of the field and research subjects. Countertransference is often outside of awareness and is accessed by asking: How do I feel? How do you feel? How do we feel? And, why? Asking these questions allowed us to reflexively discuss our individual subjective experiences and to sort out self in relation to each other and the people with which we were interacting.
While traditional ethnographic methods have focused on the lone researcher immersed in the organizational field, our experience demonstrates that the research pair can be an effective approach to the field. We share our experience of conducting ethnographic interviewing as members of a research pair. We illustrate how countertransference can be accessed and processed as a means of enhancing our understanding of research subjects, each other, and our selves (Ogden, 1997; Reik, 1983). For instance, after each interview we immediately processed our emotional reactions and first impressions; then, we reviewed each other's written fieldnotes, paying particular attention to the similarities and differences in our perceptions and experiences of the interviews. This way, we engaged in a “living conversation” (Cunliffe, 2011, p. 665) in which we shared and reflected upon individual “internal conversations” (Burkitt, 2012, p. 460). What was surprising to both of us was how much we learned about our experiences through the notes of the other researcher.
Overall, the research pair provided a context in which we could collaborate in the creation of meaning to, intersubjectively, go beyond individual perceptions and interpretations to, ultimately, construct a rich, nuanced, and holistic picture of what it’s like to be there. With this paper, we contribute to extant literature by proposing both a collaborative and intersubjective approach to the fieldwork process - that of the research pair. This paper is best suited for Stream 1, as it explores how subjectivity influences methodology and constitutes the research experience.
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Giminez, G., & Pinel, J. P. (2013). A proposed method of group observation and note-taking from a psychoanalytic perspective. Group Analysis, 46(1), 3-17. Hollway, W., & Jefferson, T. (2000). Doing qualitative research differently: Free association, narrative and the interview method. London: Sage Publications. Odgen, T. (1997). Reverie and metaphor. Some thoughts on how I work as a psychoanalyst. The International Journal of Pscyho-Analysis, 78, 719. Reik, T. (1983). Listening with the third ear. Macmillan.