Multidimensionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Review and Integration

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Xing Liu, Jieun Park, Christina Hymer, and Sherry M. B. Thatcher of the University of South Carolina. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Multidimensionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Review and Integration,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reveal the inspiration for conducting this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Guided by a mutual interest in diversity, we wanted to provide a perspective that captured the increasingly complex view of diversity in today’s society. Views about diversity are no longer limited to differences on one attribute or dimension, such as race or gender, but take into consideration bundles of differences, such as the differences between being a white male, a black male, a black female, and a white female. Our goal in reviewing the literature on individuals’ multidimensionality was to integrate diverse points of view and provide a theoretical framework for advancing research within this exciting and increasingly relevant area. Our review highlighted that there are three main areas where multidimensionality research has been conducted: intersectionality (how bundles of demographic attributes create emergent social identities), faultlines (subgroup divisions generated by the alignment of bundles of attributes across group members), and multiplexity (the overlap of individuals’ multiple relations with others). In our review, we develop a holistic understanding of multidimensionality and illuminate linkages across multidimensionality literatures to pave the way for scholars to advance theoretical and empirical perspectives on this topic. Researchers and managers interested in understanding the roles that multidimensional diversity play in organizations will be interested in this review.

Were there any specific external events –political, social, or economic –that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

This is a unique time in the United States. Over the past two decades, we have witnessed a biracial American president, an increased dialogue around acceptance of LBGTQ individuals, and discussions at the highest levels of corporations on how to ensure that diversity initiatives are inclusive. Researchers and practitioners alike are increasingly recognizing that employees often seek to bring their whole selves to work. The line between work and non-work selves is becoming more blurred in today’s organizational environment. As a result, effective management of employees’ “whole selves” is one way that employers can reap the benefits of their employees’ multidimensionality, such as tapping into their employees’ diverse experiences and social relations. Our review highlights that employees should embrace their own multidimensionality as well as that of their coworkers, subordinates, and managers.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our review is innovative in that rather than reviewing a set of studies that investigate multidimensionality from a single viewpoint, we explore three literatures that have approached multidimensionality from very different angles. Thus, our review provides a novel perspective to viewing the multidimensional diversity of today’s workforce. We highlight that individuals are not only multidimensional with respect to visible or skill-based attributes, but also multidimensional in their social relations with others. Using this perspective, we can better understand how employees may experience their work environment due to the multiple identifications and categorizations they use to define themselves. Our holistic perspective of multidimensionality is vital for organizations to effectively manage the multidimensional diversity of the workforce and provides a practical framework to help organizations benefit from their employees’ multidimensional diversity.

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Studying Creative Workers

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Holly Patrick of Edinburgh Napier University. She recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Nested tensions and smoothing tactics: An ethnographic examination of ambidexterity in a theatre,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Patrick briefly describes her motivations for this research and her findings:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

The Creative Industries, and the theatre industry in particular, is a thrilling and extremely rewarding arena for research. The content of the work is inherently fascinating to me, and most employees (from the artists on stage to the box office staff) are driven by a love of the art form, and by a commitment to one another. Aside from the pleasure of researching such a vibrant community, there are a couple of reasons why research in this area is particularly worthy. First, the production of art is in many ways the production of society, as it generates new ideas and new understandings of culture, identity and society which diffuse through high and popular creative forms to influence all areas of life. Second, creative workers and organisations are becoming increasingly important to the economy of developed countries as the manufacturing industry shrinks and certain areas of service work become automated.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

My research is ethnographic – based on observation, participant observation and interviews. It is a lot to ask that anyone allows another person to follow them around and take notes on a regular basis for an extended period of time. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was a PhD student adopting an inductive methodology – so I didn’t walk into the theatre with a research question. Participants often wanted to know ‘what are you trying to find out?’ and ‘I’m not quite sure yet’ never felt like a very satisfactory answer! Despite being open and honest about this, ambiguity breeds insecurity, and sometimes I had to adjust my techniques and my plans to deal with the discomfort participants felt at my presence in their workspace (which in some cases were usually private, such as rehearsals). The findings I present in this paper about the linguistic tactics used to deal with paradox are some of the most interesting in the project, and resulted from me being able to develop a close and sustained relationship with a production team – but it was not without its challenges. I remember an actor who was having a difficult rehearsal legitimately (if a little uncomfortably) asking ‘what the f*** was I writing about in my notebook anyway’. Accounts of methodology are often sanitised in papers, but doing research is all about understanding and responding to participants concerns, which helps build our knowledge of the field and our reflexivity about the impacts of our methods on others.

What advice would you give to new scholar and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Paradox is a rapidly evolving area so going to conferences in key to keeping up with the field. IF you are considering research the Creative Industries, it is important to bear in mind that much of the foundational literature was written in an era of investment and political hype around the value of creativity to the economy. We do not live in the same world today, and contemporary research in the UK needs to focus on the value of the creative economy in a post-crash, austerity-driven context.

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Nothing happened, something happened: Silence in a makerspace

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. François-Xavier de Vaujany
of the Université Paris-Dauphine, and Dr. Jeremy Aroles of Durham University Business School. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Nothing happened, something happened: Silence in a makerspace,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations of this research and its significance to the present:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Over the course of our research, we had the opportunity to visit a wide range of collaborative spaces located in ten countries. During these visits, we were particularly surprised by the role and importance of silence in these different spaces. The collaborative orientation of these spaces, together with the idea that collaboration is a noisy endeavour, made the prevalence and centrality of silence rather counterintuitive. This prompted us to look more closely into silence and its manifestations. In particular, it seemed that there was more to silence than meets the eye: we began to appreciate how silence is not an emptiness or an absence but rather both a space and process full of potentialities, possibilities for learning and creative endeavours. In our paper, we explore this initial intuition through an ethnographic study of a makerspace located in Paris.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Silence is a topic that is rarely featured in management and organisational studies. Fewer studies still have investigated silence in a ‘non-coercive context’, that is when silence is not directly forced upon people but rather chosen and actively sought. Our research is an invitation to consider the role of silence in new working configurations, and more precisely, the complex and multifaceted relation between silence and embodied forms of learning. We contend that silence creates the conditions for co-created and embodied learning. It gives visibility to the learning process of the workers and re-centres expression around gestures as well as focused conversations, highlighting how a silence ‘immediately felt’ in a physical space is not necessarily an absence of conversation.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

This is a difficult question to answer; in our case, this entailed rediscovering some fundamental texts published some seventy years ago. As our research progressed, our attention revolved increasingly more around the work of the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. In particular, we rediscovered The Visible and The Invisible as well as Phenomenology of perception. In addition, we found Glen Mazis’ book (Merleau-Ponty and the Face of the World: Silence, Ethics, Imagination, and Poetic Ontology) particularly useful when reading Merleau-Ponty’s work. We discovered, in Merleau-Ponty’s work, a wealth of concepts and sensibilities that are particularly well suited to the study of the ‘new’ world of work. More precisely, his work invites us to rethink our perceptions and experiences through an engagement with the notions of embodiment, flesh and inter-corporeity.

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How Anonymity and Visibility Affordances Influence Employees’ Decisions About Voicing Workplace Concerns

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Chang M. Mao and David C. DeAndrea of Ohio State University. They recently published an article in Management Communication Quarterly entitled “How Anonymity and Visibility Affordances Influence Employees’ Decisions About Voicing Workplace Concerns,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivation and impact of this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are very interested in studying the extent to which the prevalence of communication technology in organizational settings encourages or discourages employees from voicing their concerns at work. Some evidence suggests that technology increases employee participation whereas other research suggests that technological surveillance dampens employee participation. We designed an experiment to examine how features of communication technology affect the degree to which employees view channels to voice concerns as safe and efficacious. We first obtained some interesting findings from a college student sample (study 1). Then we replicated our findings with a more diverse population (Study 2).

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

In 2017, thousands of people disclosed their workplace sexual harassment on publically available social media under the #MeToo movement. The proliferation of the movement emphasizes the importance of our research. We discussed how important it is for management to establish safe and efficacious communication platforms for employees to voice their concerns within the boundaries of an organization. The #MeToo movement reveals the existing problematic status of many organizations; employees feel unsafe or ineffective in pointing out the malpractices of their organizations. As a consequence, people may seek out other ways to express themselves, such as posting on publically available social media, which may result in a lose-lose situation; the individual would face greater personal risk and the organization would lose the opportunity to correct problems and may have to manage a more deleterious public image crisis.

Were there any surprising findings?

We found significant support for the opposite of two of our hypotheses. We hypothesized that the more anonymous or the more public a communication platform was perceived to be, the less effective the platform would be. But, the data suggested the opposite: the less anonymous and less public a platform was perceived to be, the more effective the platform was. Considering that all safety hypotheses were supported, whereas efficacy hypotheses were not, we have speculated that employees evaluate safety before efficacy when they decide whether to voice their concerns or not. That is, when employees feel as though a voicing channel is unsafe, they do not envision using the channel and thus do not begin to consider whether voicing their concerns will lead to desired changes. Thus we would remind practitioners to pay close attention to employees’ safety concerns when management wishes to encourage participatory decision-making at work.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

In this study, we adopted a perceived affordance lens to understand the effects of communication technology. In contrast to the inherent technology affordance perspective, the perceived affordance perspective emphasizes how people subjectively evaluate the qualities of communication technologies. We argue that what matters most is employees’ subjective evaluation of the communication platforms, such as the degree to which they perceive them be anonymous and the degree to which they believe their messages are private. We hope to emphasize the voluntaristic perspective of communication technology and its impact on organizational behaviors.

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How to Measure Shared Leadership?

[We’re pleased to welcome G. James Lemoine of the University at Buffalo–State University of New York, Gamze Koseoglu of the University of Melbourne, Hamed Ghahremani of the University at Buffalo–State University of New York, and Terry C. Blum of Georgia Institute of Technology. They recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled, “Importance-Weighted Density: A Shared Leadership Illustration of the Case for Moving Beyond Density and Decentralization in Particularistic Resource Networks,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the methodology and significance of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

This research started its life as a second-year PhD student seminar paper, with a completely different research question and design. I was very interested in shared leadership and how different patterns of leadership within a team might affect its outcomes. Over several iterations of that paper, though, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the way shared leadership was measured in the literature. Specifically, I wasn’t convinced that the ways shared leadership had been measured – as an aggregation, or as network density or decentralization – could fully capture it in a way consistent with its conceptual meaning. I shared these concerns with a few co-authors who are far smarter than I am, and we agreed that tackling this measurement issue was potentially more important and interesting than my original research question. Further, over the course of the manuscript’s development and with the help of co-authors and reviewers, I soon realized that these measurement issues aren’t limited to the study of shared leadership. In fact, we feel they’re widespread throughout the organizational literature on team properties with particularistic qualities. There are many other team constructs, like shared mental models and advice networks, where a ‘tie’ from one member to another becomes more valuable when the sender is better connected. For instance, someone receiving lots of advice from others should in turn offer better advice, and if someone views you as a team leader, that’s a more powerful link if that person is him or herself seen as a leader by others (and it’s more consistent with the core idea of ‘sharing’ leadership). When we realized how many streams of research might benefit from a network statistic that specifically accounted for these types of team configurations, we hoped that we might make an impact on the field by proposing a potential solution.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

In order to build a formula for a network statistic that would solve the issues we encountered, it was necessary to do a ‘deep dive’ into the literature on network methodology: You can’t suggest an additional path forward if you don’t understand where the literature has been. This was at times a difficult challenge for us, as none of us are focused methodologists. Speaking only for myself, many older methods papers can be difficult to decipher for a relative layperson like me (one of the reasons I like ORM is that so many papers are written relatively simply).

We tried to build on that research to generate a new measurement tool that would provide added value, and I can’t tell you how many weeks we spent going over and over our formulae to make sure they were accurate and appropriate. I have a stack of Pizza Hut napkins on my desk right now, covered with scribbled math and algebra (a habit which did not amuse my wife). And finally, after we were confident that we’d got it right, the next challenge was to distill it into a manuscript that everyone, not just network statisticians, could understand. Hopefully we did a good job of this.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Don’t be satisfied with the way research is conducted, just because that’s the way research has always been conducted. Just because an assumption has never been seriously questioned does not mean it should not be questioned. Just because an idea or a theory or a method has been printed in an A-journal, doesn’t make it right. Always approach research from the perspective not of how it’s commonly done, but how it should best be done. Along those lines but more specific to our paper, this means carefully examining how a construct of interest is measured. We proposed the importance-weighted density (IWD) statistic for particularistic resource networks, but we acknowledge that what measure you use really depends on your research question. There are some hypotheses for which density or decentralization would be a better fit than our IWD. As always, conceptualization and theory should drive measurement.

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Are Founder-Led Firms Less Susceptible to Managerial Myopia?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Charlotte L. Schuster of Technical University of Dresden, Alexander T. Nicolai of the University of Oldenburg, and
Jeffrey G. Covin of Indiana University. They recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice entitled “Are Founder-Led Firms Less Susceptible to Managerial Myopia?,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly write about the motivation and impact of their research.

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

“Over the last two decades, critical concern among academics and practitioners increased that managers act myopically. This criticism refers to managers sacrificing a company’s long-term for its’ short-term goals – often expressed in cutting R&D expenses to meet earnings targets. Among the most cited reasons for managerial myopia in management research are short decision horizons of opportunistic managers. While existing research in different disciplines mainly focused on “professional” managers and CEOs of publicly listed companies, it is not clear whether myopic management practices also apply to founder-CEOs. Founders might differ inherently from salaried managers in terms of passion and intrinsic motivation, incentive structure, and duration in the company. This motivated us to analyze empirically whether founder-CEOs who built up a company and accompanied it from its early stage through and beyond the company’s IPO are, indeed, less susceptible to managerial myopia than nonfounder-CEOs.”

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

“Several recent events suggested that managerial myopia is prevalent among very big companies. For instance, the German Automotive Manufacturer Volkswagen gained negative publicity with the systematic manipulation of emission values on the test stand. By risking an immense image loss in the long run and the payment of high conversion and compensation costs to customers in the medium term, the company preferred to save R&D expenses in the short term and, thus, forewent the process of developing a better technology.

In contrast to professional managers, founders often claim to be long-term oriented. They seem to be more interested in demonstrating and pursuing a long-term vision for the company than committing to short-term earnings goals. For example, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com took losses for years and withstood the capital market pressure to make quick profits in order to realize his vision of building up the company. In a similar vein, Elon Musk, founder and CEO off Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is known for trying to win support for his views – ignoring the earnings expectations of the capital market.
Such contradicting company examples further motivated us to explore the investment behavior of founder- versus nonfounder-led firms in the context of short-term earnings goals.”

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

“Our study is the first to examine the phenomenon of managerial myopia in the context of founder- versus nonfounder-led firms. We leverage insights drawn from agency theory and stewardship theory as bases for explaining both a specific myopic earnings management practice as well as the influence of CEO founder status on the likelihood of this practice occurring. Specifically, our study contributes to knowledge based on corporate governance and entrepreneurship research that employs stewardship theory to explain the behavior of individuals who place their firms’ interests above their own self-interests. While we did not find a negative relationship between stock ownership and myopic R&D cuts as agency theory would suggest, our results document the influence of founder status as a factor associated with CEOs being good stewards of their firms’ assets, congruent with the stewardship theory position regarding founder-CEOs’ behavior. Our empirical results shed light on how firms can benefit from founder management and illuminate the financial conditions under which potentially detrimental earnings management practices may surface. Thus, our study contributes to a growing understanding of how and why founder management can well serve a firm’s long-term interests.”

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Family Firms and the Choice Between Wholly Owned Subsidiaries and Joint Ventures

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Maria Cristina Sestu of the University of Pavia and Antonio Majocchi of the University of Pavia. They recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice entitled “Family Firms and the Choice Between Wholly Owned Subsidiaries and Joint Ventures: A Transaction Costs Perspective,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, They briefly describe the motivation and impact of their research.

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

Recent entry mode research has largely ignored the ownership characteristics of the MNCs. We investigate the entry mode decisions of family and non-family firms and explore the role of family involvement on both the MNC side and the local partner side. We contend that the mixed results produced to date are a consequence of a lack of attention to family or non-family involvement on both sides in general and on the local firm side in particular. In the paper, we address why and how family involvement affects entry strategy.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Recent official data show that the value of cross border M&A and partial acquisitions deals in Italy reached a new high making the Italian companies the most targeted by foreign acquisitions in the EU along with France and just after the UK. A number of these acquisitions by family and non-family MNCs targeted iconic brands owned by family firms such as Loro Piana, Valentino, Pomellato and Krizia. Commenting the acquisitions on the news the managers involved on the deals often highlight the relevance of being a family firm. This suggests us that the family nature of both the target and the investing companies were still an underdeveloped issue in the management literature and convince us to further investigate the topic.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The intuition that studying the differences between the entry mode policies of family and non-family firms was a promising field of research proved right. We show that whether the investor and target are a family firm or not has an impact on the entry mode choice as family control is relevant on both sides of the transaction. We prove that future research in the field would be more fruitful if corporate governance characteristics were taken into account. We also show that family involvement generates some firm specific asset that affects family firm policies. In this way we contribute to the development of the theory of family firms.

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