SECOND EDITION Looking Back and to the Future
Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Eran Vigoda-Gadot and Amos Drory
Chapter 14: Rats in the shadows: researching organizational politics
This chapter explores innovative approaches to the study of organization politics, which is widely considered to be a ‘difficult’ research topic. However, self-disclosure in this domain depends on how participants are approached, the relationship between researcher and participant, style of questioning, and the intended research outputs. Variations in approach, relationship, questioning and outputs will be discussed, identifying more and less successful combinations of tactics, thus challenging, with examples, the assumption that participants will necessarily find this an uncomfortable subject to talk about, even with a stranger. In addition to conventional forms of (more or less structured) one-on-one interviews, and focus groups, direct research methods include: focused life-history interviews; participant observation by embedded researchers; quizzing participants on management development programmes; and single or small-n case studies. Proxy methods can also be used to explore the antecedents, tactics and consequences of political behaviour in organizations, including analysis of feature films (Elizabeth, Contact), television programmes (House of Cards, Börgen), and novels, such as the Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This discussion of methods will be underpinned by a constructivist–interpretive epistemology, and a processual–contextual perspective. The ‘problem’ of generalizability will be addressed, particularly in relation to single and small-n case study research. The chapter will explore moderatum generalization, naturalistic generalization (or transferability), analytical generalization (or refinement), and isomorphic learning. The chapter concludes with the assertion that the kinds of questions and settings that are involved in studies of organization politics are more often better approached through constructivist, processual, qualitative methods.
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