New Podcast: Chris Grey on Organizations


Chris-Grey_opt.jpgWhat is an “organization?” According to Chris Grey, the guest in this Social Science Bites podcast, in many ways it’s a moment in time. “An organization,” he tells interviewer David Edmonds, “is also a momentary crystallization of an ongoing process of organizing.”

Click here to listen to the podcast now!

Grey is a professor of organizational studies in the school of management at Royal Holloway University in London and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. And while he’s been heavily involved in management studies – he’s actually part of the School of Management at Royal Holloway – he makes clear that the rubric of ‘an organization’ extends far beyond business alone. “A huge amount of life is organized,” Grey explains, “and is therefore under the ambit of organizational studies.” In fact, the field itself, which essentially emerged from work on bureaucracy by Max Weber, was usually located in an institution’s sociology or psychology departments until the advent of business schools in the 1960s exerted a magnetic draw on the discipline.

One of Grey’s best examples of not being solely a business study is detailed in his 2012 book — Decoding Organization: Bletchley Park, Codebreaking and Organization Studies — about the (now) famous British World War II codebreaking campus. As he describes in this podcast, Bletchley Park harnessed many of the current cultural trends and personality traits of its selected workforce so well that even spouses didn’t know of each other’s wartime exploits for decades after V-E Day.

Even if organizational studies is boiled down to issues of economic efficiency, he continues, “we have to open up the question of what does efficiency mean and for who?” He adds: “We needn’t give the answer, ‘efficient for the powerful’.” And while admitting that his “take” is far from universal among his colleagues, “Fundamentally the problems of organization are not soluble and they’re not amenable to the kind of prediction and control that is sometimes promised.”

While he has wide ranging research interests and a love of detective novels, Grey remains well-represented in the management field. He was editor-in-chief of Management Learning for six years. Grey co-edited the 2016 book Critical Management Studies: Global Voices, Local Accents and was co-author of another 2016 volume, Secrecy at Work: The Hidden Architecture of Organizational Life.

His most recent book for SAGE is the cleverly named A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Organizations.

For a complete listing of past Social Science Bites podcasts, click HERE. You can follow Bites on Twitter @socialscibites and David Edmonds @DavidEdmonds100.

Assessing Leadership Styles in Business Meetings

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies,  the typical employee spends an average of 6 hours per week in scheduled meetings (Rogelberg et al., 2006), allowing a considerable amount of time to assess the leadership and presenting skills of the supervisor.

23577007471_72530d5341_z.jpgAuthors Isabelle Odermatt, Cornelius  König, Martin Kleinmann, Romana Nussbaumer, Amanda Rosenbaum, Jessie Olien, and Steven Rogelberg analyze the leadership styles of supervisors and how their employees perceive them in their paper, “On Leading Meetings: Linking Meeting Outcomes to Leadership Styles.”

The article is currently free to read for a limited time, so click here to find out how leadership behavior helps to strengthen motivation in employees to follow through with action items! The abstract for the article is below:

Leading meetings represent a typically and frequently performed leadership task. This study investigated the relationship between the leadership style of supervisors and employees’ perception of meeting outcomes. Results showed that participants reported greater meeting satisfaction when their meeting leader was assessed as a considerate supervisor, with the relationship between considerate leadership style and meeting satisfaction being mediated by both relational- and task-oriented meeting procedures. The results, however, provide no support for initiating structure being associated with meeting effectiveness measures. More generally, the findings imply that leadership behavior is a crucial factor in explaining important meeting outcomes.

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Meeting photo attributed to the Government of Alberta (CC).

Reference
Rogelberg S. G., Leach D. J., Warr P. B., Burnfield J. L. (2006). “Not another meeting!” Are meeting time demands related to employee well-being? Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 83-96. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.1.83 Google Scholar CrossRef, Medline

#OSEditorPicks: Resistance through Difference: The Co-Constitution of Dissent and Inclusion

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

In the #OSEditorPicks for May, Resistance through Difference: The Co-Constitution of Dissent and Inclusion, Suzanne Gagnon and David Collinson investigate dynamics within international leadership development teams composed of managers from around the world who varied substantially in terms of ethnicity, race and language. They found that some teams constructed the differences among team members in ways that reproduced organizational norms, while one team used their differences to resist organizational initiatives with which they fundamentally disagreed.

Suzanne and David’s study reveals previously under-explored links between contemporary forms of dissent, control, and difference. Their inductive study draws on the accounts of managers of 16 nationalities in an employer-led international leadership programme. In a business world characterized by increasingly global organizations, together with ongoing concerns about managing cultural, social and ethnic differences, I think this paper gives us new food for thought. I encourage everyone to read it.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #OSEditorPicks

You can read Resistance through Difference: The Co-Constitution of Dissent and
Inclusion
by Suzanne Gagnon and David Collinson
 free for the next 30 days. The article is from the forthcoming  special issue of Organization Studies, Resistance, resisting, and resisters in and around organizations.

Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome author David Wasieleski of Duquesne University, USA. Wasieleski recently published an article in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled, “Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations: Toward Developing a Sensitivity for Sustainability,” co-authored by Paul Shrivastava, Gunter Schumacher, and Marco Tasic. From Wasieleski:]

As a rationale for what inspired us to get interested in this topic was the realization that the environmental crisis is in part caused by the emotional disconnection between humanJABS_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs and nature. Art is a vehicle for emotional connection.  And, using art based values and methods we can emotionally reconnect people and organizations with nature.

Art influences the sustainability of companies through architecture, aesthetics of work-spaces, design of products and services, design of work and organizational systems, graphic art in advertising, and arts-based training methods. Self-expressiveness and authenticity that are hallmarks of art can also enhance organizational productivity and employee motivation. Sustainable organizations need arts to enhance employee creativity, innovation, attract creative workers, improve worker satisfaction, design eco-friendly and innovative products and services.   Arts also allows us to study those aspects of organizational sustainability which are a strength of aesthetics inquiry, such as sensory and emotional experiences often ignored in traditional management studies.
For more information, please see: ircase.org

The abstract for their article is below:

This article explains the coexistence and interaction of aesthetic experience and moral value systems of decision makers in organizations. For this purpose, we develop the concept of “aesthetic rationality,” which is described as a type of value-oriented rationality that serves to encourage sustainable behavior in organizations, and to complete the commonly held, “instrumentally rational” view of organizations. We show that organizations regularly exhibit not only an instrumental rationality but also an “aesthetic rationality,” which is manifested in their products and processes. We describe aesthetics, its underlying moral values, its evolutionary roots, and its links to virtue ethics as a basis for defining the concept of aesthetic rationality. We examine its links with human resources, organizational design, and other organizational elements. We examine these implications, identify how an aesthetic-driven ethic provides a potential for sustainable behavior in organizations, and suggest new directions for organizational research.

 

The full article is currently free to read for a limited time, by clicking here. Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts so you never miss the latest research.

Benefits and Costs of Covert Research: An Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome author Thomas Roulet of King’s College, UK.  Roulet recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled Reconsidering the Value of Covert Research: The Role of Ambiguous Consent in Participant Observation, co-authored by Michael J. Gill, Sebastien Stenger, and David James Gill. From Roulet:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? We were inspired by recent ethnographic work relying heavily on covert observation – for example the recent work by Alice Goffman on low income urban areas, or the paper byORM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg Ethan Bernstein on the pitfalls of transparency in a Chinese factory.Alice Goffman’s work was attacked for the ethical challenges associated with the work of ethnographer.

So we went back to the literature and looked at research in various fields that relied on covert observation – the observation of a field of enquiry by a researcher that does not reveal his or her true identity and motives. This methodological approach has progressively fallen into abeyance because of the ethical issues associated with it- in particular the fact that covert observation implies not getting consent from the people observed by the researcher.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? Our review of covert research reveals that:
– all observations have issues with consent to different extent. It is obtain the full consent of all subjects. We put forward a two dimensions
– covert research can be ethically justified when tackling taboo topics, or trying to uncover misbehaviors.
– there is a wide range of ways and practices that can be used to minimize ethical concerns and limit the harm to subjects.

How do you see this study influencing future research? We hope that the ethical guidelines of some associations can evolve to offer more room for covert or semi covert research, and acknowledge the difficulties of obtaining full consent. We also think that ethical boards in universities may be willing to offer a more flexible perspective on covert research.

Finally our work is a call to researchers to consider covert observational approaches… with care!

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Lessons from history: What the Dutch East India Company can teach us about modern-day organizational slack

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Stoyan V Sgourev of ESSEC Business School, France and Wim van Lent of Montpellier Business School, France, who recently published the article When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) in Human Relations.] 
HUM 70_1_Cover_ONLINE1.inddIt is only recently that scholars started to inquire into whether it makes sense to employ more workers than needed to attend to routine operations but the question appears to be much older than recognized.

As a pioneer of intercontinental trade and the largest employer in the Dutch Republic, the Dutch East India Company (1602 ‒1795) needed a large workforce to maintain and develop its shipping network. The rapid expansion of its merchant fleet in the early 18th century exhausted the local labor supply, forcing the Company to hire unskilled foreign sailors. Our analysis of data from the Dutch East India Company archives confirms that skill shortage resulted in deteriorating operational and financial performance. We find that the Dutch East India Company’s directors addressed the problem by “overmanning” the ships (boarding more sailors than what is operationally required), when foreign sailors prevailed in the ranks. The analysis attests that the Dutch East India Company’s reliance on extra sailors involved a direct trade-off, as it enhanced operational reliability (by reducing the probability of losing the ship at sea), but reduced operational efficiency  (by prolonging the length of voyages, as the ships were heavier and the crews were less experienced).

In view of the underlying trade-off between speed and safety, the Dutch East India Company’s efforts to mitigate the negative effects of skill shortage were only partly successful. The use of extra sailors to offset the adverse effects of unskilled labor was a natural solution at a time when formal training was inadequate while cheap, unskilled labor was available. But the documented trade-off has contemporary resonance. Scholarship suggests that firms can balance between effectiveness and efficiency in reaching optimum performance, yet our analysis advises caution as to the extent to which organizational practices can be optimized. The Dutch East India Company directors faced the same need to balance competing pressures for efficiency and reliability as contemporary managers, and the same difficulty of identifying the coveted optimal point.

The findings also serve as a reminder that, even when overall successful, gradual adaptation may not be sufficient to resolve long-standing problems. The documented practice was an adaptive, stopgap measure that evolved from practical experience and that functioned well under the existing constraints. It alleviated the problem of skill shortage, but in the long run, it did not help resolve the structural problems that brought about the Dutch East India Company’s demise toward the end of the 18th century.

Two centuries later, the Dutch East India Company remains a source of insights into processes of adaptation and change. Similar to contemporary managers, the Dutch East India Company directors struggled to achieve a balance between operating efficiently and retaining surplus resources, necessary to address unexpected threats and opportunities. It was the first company to internationalize its workforce and confront the difficulties of operating in multiple locations, but not the last one to have found these difficulties more persistent than expected. In some respects, management practice has not changed much since the 18th century.

You can read  When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) from Human Relations free until the end of March by clicking here.

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#OSEditorPicks: Constructing and responding to paradox through humor

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

oss-_38_2Humor is an important aspect of most workplaces, and yet few researchers have delved into understanding how humor impacts the way people do their work. In the #OSEditorPicks for March We have to do this and that? You must be joking: Constructing and responding to paradox through humor an article appearing in Organization Studies’ soon to be released special issue on Paradox, Paula Jarzabkowski and Jane Lê show us how humor matters. As part of their ethnographic study of changes in a telecommunications firm, they noticed that people made a lot of jokes about paradoxical conditions. Intrigued with what people were laughing about and how humor seemed to be integral to practice, the authors engaged in a deep and insightful analysis of conversations that happened in 71 team meetings they observed over a 2 year time period. They found that humor was a critical component of responding to paradox – it contributed to both (1) entrenching responses and (2) shifting responses to paradoxical issues.

This is a great article because it raises attention to an important but commonly overlooked phenomenon of organizational life – humor. In addition, it provides a truly stellar example of what we can learn from studying how people do their everyday work. This is an important article for everyone who wants to learn more about micro-level interactions and how people matter in managing paradox.

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You can read We have to do this and that? You must be joking: Constructing and responding to paradox through humor from Organization Studies free for the next 30 days by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Organization Studies? Visit the homepage here and sign up for email alerts!