Negotiating Tensions between Theory and Practice
Edited by Julie Wolfram Cox, Tony G. LeTrent-Jones, Maxim Voronov and David Weir
Chapter 1: Taking the Employee’s Perspective: Negotiating Critical Research in an Organization in Conflict
Amanda Roan, Rebecca Loudoun and George Lafferty INTRODUCTION The growing interest in critical management research reveals a complexity of potentially problematic relationships between researchers, research participants, managers and research funding bodies. As critical social science is about identifying and challenging the assumptions underpinning perception and action, recognizing the influence of history and culture, and exploring alternatives that may disrupt established orders (Alvesson and Deetz 2000), relationships between researchers, participants and sponsors can become difficult (Behar 2003; Wray-Bliss 2003). This chapter examines the operation of these relationships within an organizational setting characterized by multiple agendas, hierarchical structures and considerable levels of mistrust. The psychiatric hospital at which the researchers were invited to conduct this particular project was undergoing a program of significant organizational change and downsizing. To complete the project we needed the cooperation of different groups of employees. We also needed to meet the expectations of the senior management who had commissioned the research. Although it would be naïve to believe that such tensions can be resolved, we use literature on both employee voice and the conduct of critical management research to discuss some of the issues that arose during the project. The chapter begins by examining current discussions within the critical management literature on the conduct of empirically based organizational research. It goes on to provide an overview of the project, the research methods used and the strategies attempted to overcome difficulties arising from a predictable mismatch between management expectations, employees’ willingness to participate in the project and...
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