The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Florence Palpacuer and Amélie Seignour of the University of Montpellier. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Resisting Via Hybrid Spaces: The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Certainly, the trigger for this research was the huge media crisis happening in France in the winter of 2010, about a series of employees’ suicides at France Telecom: management practices all of a sudden became a daily topic of debate among a broad variety of stakeholders, from political parties to major corporate leaders, union representatives, religious organizations, and observers of various kinds: everybody had an opinion!

We quickly observed that France Telecom epitomized the kind of restructuring we had studied in other large multinationals in the country, prompted by financialization and deeply undermining the social values and solidarities that had formed the ethics and social unity of these companies.

Looking deeper, we discovered a vibrant, innovative social movement stemming from within the firm to question the role of business in society and the living conditions it offered at the workplace. We were quite fascinated and decided to further investigate this movement.

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

Indeed, we were amazed to discover this incredibly rich and inspired social movement cutting across the firm, civil society, and later on, the State, to turn the issue of work pressure and work organization into a political question, to make visible the suffering of workers who were deprived of their work ethics and identity, and to launch effective policies and actions to transform management practices.

A key challenge for us was to answer the “so what” question in academic terms. We were deeply immersed into the case, and the case itself had such strong resonance with broader transformations of French capitalism, the world of work, and civil society debates, that we believed the case was self-explanatory…well, it wasn’t!

This “so what” question forced us to theorize the case, to go beyond the building up of the story – already quite an intense exercise given the multi-level and multi-actor set up of the case – and to come up eventually with our neo-Gramscian take on the ‘hybrid space’.

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

The neo-Gramscian hybrid space is a very promising tool to explore the kind of social-political transformation we need to see happening in corporations and the economy, if we are to answer the social and environmental challenges of our times.

This framework highlights the key role of movements spanning across the firm, civil society, and the State, in the capacity of resisters to produce lasting changes in the hegemony. We show that change agents should act together both from within and beyond their institutional roles, in order to share and generate new forms of knowledge, resources and actions that will give them a transformative capacity.

We hope that this rich story of resistance, and its conceptual rendering, will inspire others to research and promote such transformations.

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The Key to Getting off on the Right Foot – A conversation with James Timpson on Hiring Offenders

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jenna Pandeli and Nicholas O’Regan of the University of the West of England. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Risky Business? The Value of Employing Offenders and Ex-Offenders: An Interview With James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

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James Timpson delivered a distinguished address at UWE Bristol, following which this paper was completed. I was delighted to be part of the interview team in adding the analysis and reflections to the interview given my research background in offender employment. My PhD research explored the employment of prisoner in private industries during their incarceration (Pandeli et al, 2018) and I am passionate about developing the use of employment as a form of rehabilitation rather than as simply a tool to pass time for prisoners, or as a form of additional income for the prison.

James’s approach provides an example of great practice for working with offenders; he works with them during their incarceration and then provides many with the opportunity to work for Timpson’s upon release. This type of ‘through the gates’ care is exactly what is needed and should be encouraged. Much of the literature on hiring offenders does point towards this approach, and so it is great to provide a real-life example of how this is working in practice to show how the theoretical and practical can go hand-in-hand.

One of the key motivations for writing this ‘meet the person’ piece is the positive impact that we might be able to have by presenting an employer’s insight into working with offenders, to show how providing these individuals with the opportunity to undertake meaningful, empowering work can have a positive impact on their lives and reduce the likelihood of them returning to crime. We believe that this can be useful to a wide range of practitioners including policy makers, the prison and probation service as well as other employers who may be thinking about working with offenders.

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Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students

[Professors Andrea North-Samardzic of Deakin University Victoria and Marlize de Witt of the University of Waikato recently published a research article in the Journal of Management Education which is entitled “Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students“. We are delighted to welcome them as contributors, and their article will be free to read for a limited time. Below they reveal the inspirations and influences behind their research.]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I wanted to use a simulation in my classes but couldn’t find one that fit my needs as well as being proven to lead to positive student outcomes. So in the grand tradition of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ I created one myself.

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

I thought that the students who navigated the software in the simulation program would find it more engaging. But the findings showed that we have tremendous capacity to create new and interesting simulations in traditional learning management systems. You don’t always need new and shiny technology to engage students.

The biggest challenge was finding students to participate in the lab tests and focus group. We can’t provide credit to students for research participation.

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

The roadmap we provide for designing, developing and testing the simulation will hopefully inspire others to create their own simulations. Buying software licenses can be expensive. So why not create your own and test it to show how and why it works?

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

There was a lot more attention to design science in the earlier drafts. I was a bit too hung up on this and it took awhile for my co-author to convince me to let it go. Kathi Lovelace was also an incredible editor and helped us with really refining the contribution too and advising us on what to play down and what to emphasise.

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

Make sure you share your work with others in development stages and rewrites no matter how rough the drafts or embryonic the ideas. If things get stuck, you may like to bring on another person as a co-author. I tried to publish the work as a sole author but it didn’t quite hit the mark. Working with Marlize to rewrite and reposition the paper made the world of difference.

Also it took a long time to bring this article to publication. That’s ok. Hang in there. Scholarship is a marathon, not a sprint.

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

Kathy Lund Dean and Jeanie M. Forray’s editorial ‘Teaching and Learning in an Age of (In)credulity: Facts and “Alternative Facts” in the Classroom’ really spoke to me even though they said some things I didn’t necessarily want to hear at first. It has lead me to do a lot of critical self-reflection about my role as educator and ‘expert’ in the room and how I need to adapt to better address current concerns. For me, a great piece of scholarship not only makes you think about the topic but makes you think about yourself.

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Standing on Top of the Wrong Wall!

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, A. R. Elangovan of the University of Victoria British Columbia and Andrew J. Hoffman of the University of Michigan. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “The Pursuit of Success in Academia: Plato’s Ghost Asks “What then?” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the backstory and motivation for this research:]

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What happens if you spend the better part of your working life fighting to climb the career ladder, succeed with hard work and sacrifice to get to the top, and then discover you have scaled the wrong wall? This was the question that we wrestled with during a chance meeting in February 2017. We were meeting for the first time but quickly recognized during the course of our discussion that we were kindred spirits in how we imagined the conceptualization and enactment of scholarly identities and purpose, and the role of academia in modern society. Our shared sensibilities were tinged with a sense of urgency to elevate this topic towards a broader and more critical debate, especially in light of the political, social and economic shifts that are radically altering the landscape of our professional and personal lives.

Central to our thinking was an unease that academia has drifted away from its primary role as the intellectual conscience of society – a place where we can gather with curiosity and passion to search skillfully for answers to questions that will point us towards better and more enlightened ways of living. We were troubled by what we had experienced as business school professors in how “success” for an academic has been so narrowly construed that it was pushing doctoral students and junior faculty towards a sterile, transactional, “careerist” interpretation of academic life. To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, we felt we were running the risk of creating a generation of academics who have “all the completeness of a limited scholar.” It was an interpretation that was in direct contrast to our belief that being an academic should be imagined and enacted as a calling, one where our creative, curious and skilled search for answers meets the pressing needs of society, i.e., that we see ourselves as actors with a responsibility to help improve the world we live in. We were deeply worried that the way business schools have defined and pursued “success” in recent decades was a self-inflicted wound that only served to undermine our contributions in and to society just as the very value of academia as an institution is being questioned, disparaged, and increasingly dismissed as irrelevant.

We felt compelled to break step with the business-as-usual approach to our work and raise the alarm about this impoverished interpretation of success that permeates our academic trajectories. We were moved and inspired by the message in the poem “What then?” by W.B. Yeats that highlights the life journey of an ambitious young man who does everything “right” as per the societal norms and mores of his time, but ends up feeling unfulfilled and increasingly unsure even as his successes add up. Our paper is wrapped around the four stanzas in the poem and equates them to the four stages of academic life. Our hope is that our call to question, challenge and critique the way we currently define success in academia would ignite a debate within business schools about our identities, responsibilities and opportunities as management scholars.

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To Agree or Not to Agree, and Its Implications for Public Employee Turnover

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Michael S. Hayes of Rutgers University–Camden and Edmund C. Stazyk of the University at Albany–State University of New York. They recently published an article in the Public Personnel Management entitled “Mission Congruence: To Agree or Not to Agree, and Its Implications for Public Employee Turnover,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describes their research and its significance.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

We were both interested in what factors motivate public employees to remain in their organizations. Specifically, in our current study, we examine whether or not mission congruence predicts employee retention. To examine our research question, our study focuses in the education sector because the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects data on a random sample of public teachers in the United States across two academic years. This longitudinal feature of the NCES data allows us to contribute to previous public administration scholarship by examining how mission congruence influences actual turnover, which has not been examined in previous studies. Previous studies have only examined turnover intention. In addition to testing our research question, we were also motivated to conduct this research to provide lessons learned for policymakers and public administrators.

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

Earlier in my career, I sometimes avoided conducting a research project if there were a lot of published articles that addressed my particular research question. It was only recently that I realized that a published study usually can only offer a “finding”. The “finding” is based on a study that usually contains some limitations. For example, a common limitation to an individual study is external validity. It often takes a lot of rigorous research before a body of research can convert a set of “findings” into “knowledge/facts” that have practical use for policymakers and practitioners. Therefore, I recommend new scholars to not underestimate the value of their research, especially when another published paper has addressed a similar research question. If your research solves a limitation found in a previous published study, then your research is important and will move the field forward.

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A Practice Perspective on the Social Notion of Collective Reflection in Organisations

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Simone Gutzan and Harald Tuckermann of the University of St.Gallen. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Neat in theory, entangled in praxis: A practice perspective on the social notion of collective reflection in organisations,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe this research:]

It is widely known that joint reflection is important for organisations to survive. However, compared to individual reflection (as a rather individual, cognitive process), we surprisingly do not know much about collective reflection. There is consensus that collective reflection is a more social and dialogical activity. But, what exactly do organizational members step back from when engaging in collective reflection? What is specific in the context of organizations? Can the co-presence of actors for reflecting collectively in highly differentiated contemporary organisations be taken for granted? And how does this social notion of collective reflection looks like in organising? These are important questions – both for theory and practice. In our paper, we aim to illustrate and develop theorizing on this social notion of collective reflection.

We empirically show that the social notion of collective reflection in organising is multifaceted: it involves several activities, each serving a different purpose and enacted according to different temporal rhythms. Our study illustrates that any neat theoretical understanding of collective reflection – as co-present actors jointly stepping back to question organizational givens – becomes messy and challenging in daily organisational life. The challenge begins with achieving the necessary co-presence of actors to enable discursive engagement as organizational members are distributed across the organisation and simultaneously engaged in value creation. Thus, we propose value creation as a point of reference for collective reflection in organising. We draw attention to the rich empirical data available in a single case study and suggest that conceptualising collective reflection as a discursive practice calls for empirical disentanglement.

For researchers, this suggests to focus in more detail on the social notion of collective reflection – particularly in the specific context of organising: first, co-presence for collective reflection cannot be taken for granted, but rather needs to be actively accomplished. Second, the reference to value creating activities is essential for collective reflection in organizations and third, if we conceptualize collective reflection as a discursive practice, we should be able to unveil its manifold and embedded real-life activities. For practitioners, this is encouraging: collective reflection is the interplay of various communicative activities. Importantly, management however has to allow for co-presence of actors by actively creating and further developing such activities.

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Readiness for Renewal

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Ryan P. Fuller of California State University, Sacramento, Robert R. Ulmer of the University of Nevada, Ashley McNatt of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Jeanette B. Ruiz of the University of California, Davis. They recently published an article in the Management Communication Quarterly entitled “Extending Discourse of Renewal to Preparedness: Construct and Scale Development of Readiness for Renewal,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations and innovations of this research.

What motivated you to pursue this research?

For over 20 years, the Discourse of Renewal has offered an alternative to theories focused on avoiding blame and repairing harm to reputations post-crisis. Some of the assumptions of the theory addressed pre-crisis elements through anecdotal evidence. Based on our research, pre-crisis preparedness is an understudied topic in crisis management. Researchers know a lot about how organizations communicate during crises and how they communicate about post-crisis recovery. As well, we knew that organizations should prepare for crises, but often focus on the day-to-day operations of running their businesses and not on what to do when a disaster or emergency strikes. We wanted to make it easier to take stock of communication practices that help the organization produce the type of post-crisis communication that will help them to return from the crisis better off than before. Consequently, we saw a great opportunity to address a gap in the research and to answer a real-world problem.

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

Our research draws on a large body of qualitative evidence that organizations are effective in recovery if they enact certain communication practices. The novelty of our project is the foregrounding of pre-crisis communication to provide the latent potential for a strong recovery. These pre-crisis communication practices have been evidenced anecdotally but not formally tested. The value added to the field of crisis communication covers two main areas. First, we see more applied and naturalistic research opportunities using survey research, including the readiness for renewal scale. Along these lines, with the scale we developed we can see more opportunities for interventions to produce the type of desirable post-crisis communication, and for researchers take a stand about what one should or ought to do rather than after it is too late. Applied researchers could help organizations identify best communication practices, reinforce those, and change poor practices. Second, we may see other scholars use the body of qualitative evidence to create quantitative measures to test discourse- and rhetoric-based theories in crisis communication.

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

We have three pieces of advice for new scholars and incoming researchers in crisis communication. First, crisis communication is a growing field, yet one that remains dominated by perspectives focused on threat, image repair, and blame avoidance. We encourage researchers to focus on developing/testing theories that are resiliency generating and identify inherent opportunities in all stages of crisis management. Second, we believe that anticipatory perspectives will continue to be an important line of research, and researchers should draw attention to effective communication practices in the pre-crisis stage. Third, we encourage researchers in crisis communication to test the limits of crisis communication theories. Such testing could occur through different methods, populations, or through applying/expanding the theory to different stages of crisis management.

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