[We’re pleased to welcome Dr. Gail T. Fairhurst of the University of Cincinnati and Linda L. Putnam of the University of California, Santa Barbara. They recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled, “An Integrative Methodology for Organizational Oppositions: Aligning Grounded Theory and Discourse Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Fairhurst reflects on the methodology and significance of this research:]
Does the study of organizational paradox require its own unique methods?
As scholarship on paradox weaves itself ever more strongly into the fabric of the organizational sciences, we take the unusual position in our article that the answer is “yes.” Grounded theory methods have certainly done yeoman’s work in explaining this concept but, like all methods, it has its limitations. There is also a complexity to paradox due to its embeddedness in the daily actions and interactions of organizational life that are hard to capture. This complexity may explain the rampant definitional confusion in the literature over such related concepts as tensions, contradictions, and dialectics. It may explain the relative lack of attention to power dynamics in paradox research and the underutilized data from exhaustive interview or mixed method studies that could tell us something more about the origins of paradox and how it organizes life in organizations.
Our article offers paradox researchers a more refined method in the hopes of addressing some of these concerns. We propose an integrative methodology for studying paradox (and related oppositional phenomena) by aligning grounded theory techniques with the little “d” and big “D” orientations of organizational discourse analysis. This integrative methodology not only aids in identifying and determining various types of organizational oppositions and responses to them, but also fosters assessment of their potential power effects and micro organizing dynamics.
We should hasten to add that we provide an extended example explaining our methodology for the adventurous paradox researcher wishing to give it a try. We also conclude with a discussion of some possible new directions for using this approach, including the study of disorder and disequilibrium in organizations—and moving beyond just the study of paradox. We believe that grounded theory and organizational discourse analysis have some natural compatibilities that could serve other research areas as well. We very much hope to inspire paradox researchers to give this new methodology a try!
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