JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY – JANUARY 2021
Apologies for cross-postings. Articles from the January 2021 issue of the Journal of Management Inquiry are now available. Please enjoy free access through February 2021 by clicking on the URL for each article.
Strategic Sensemaking and Political Connections in Unstable Institutional Contexts
Anton Klarin and Rifat Sharmelly
Vol. 30(1): 3-23
Emerging economies are often characterized by pervasive institutional changes and resultant institutional voids. In the absence of strong formal institutions, firms rely on informal institutions to fill these voids. This article argues that the process of sensemaking for firms in turbulent environments is continuous and dependent on cyclical adjustments connecting performance via a feedback loop to scanning and interpretation. Far from being a one-time occurrence, environmental sensemaking is a process operating in accord with continuous environmental changes. This study's findings derive from an in-depth analysis of a Russian pharmaceutical firm and an Indian telecommunications firm, and demonstrate that entrepreneurs make sense and gain legitimacy through political connections. The study further finds that improvements in institutional environments reduce the salience of political networks, thereby creating a choice for firms to rely on formed market mechanisms or continue along the path of political connections that evolve to public–private partnerships.
Keywords: social networks, qualitative research, decisions under risk/uncertainty, developing countries, entrepreneurship
Subordinate Actors' Institutional Maintenance in Response to Coercive Reforms
Qijie Xia and Anton Klarin
Vol. 30(1): 24-39
Institutional work research shows how actors purposively create, maintain, and disrupt institutions. Failed or unintended consequences of institutional maintenance remain relatively unexplored, for two reasons. First, the role of coercive disruption actors (e.g., a state) has not been fully explored. Second, existing literature takes scant account of power and disregards the resistance tactics of subordinate actors. Drawing on a longitudinal case study of a migrant workers' union in China, we show how subordinate actors were first able to maintain institutional arrangements followed by a maintenance failure under the disruption work performed by the authoritarian state. This study extends the institutional maintenance literature in two ways. First, subordinate actors can sustain institutions insofar as they collectively deploy superficial deference and hidden forms of resistance. Second, maintenance work is vulnerable in the sense that it is contingent on the systems of domination and the level of pressure exerted by the disruption actors.
Keywords: organization theory, institutional theory, qualitative research, power and politics
Abusive Supervisory Behavior Aimed at Raising Work Group Performance
Vol. 30(1): 40-58
Perceived abusive supervision implies detrimental human consequences and negative performance effects. However, paradoxically, there are numerous anecdotal reports on managers who appear to deliberately mistreat most of their subordinates in an effort to enhance work group performance, preferring abusive methods of influence over more constructive motivational approaches. Because destructive leadership theory does not provide a compelling explanation for this perplexing phenomenon, I conducted an inductive, longitudinal case study at the executive level of a large corporation to explore antecedents of performance-oriented abusive supervisory behavior. The analysis of rich, contextualized data reveals that empathic incompetence of superiors to consider the emotions, goals, and limitations of inferiors can imply a belief in the efficacy of harsh management tactics, resulting in abrasive supervisory conduct and an abusive supervision climate collectively perceived by subalterns. The findings suggest social dominance orientation (SDO) of upper-level managers to moderate these relationships through cognitive activation of abusive supervisory values.
Keywords: deviant/counter-productive behavior, ethics, leadership, qualitative research, culture and climate
Englishization and the Politics of Knowledge Production in Management Studies
Mehdi Boussebaa and Janne Tienari
Vol. 30(1): 59-67
Concerns have been voiced in recent years about the widespread use of U.S.-dominated journal rankings in business schools. Such practice is seen to have the effect of spreading globally a U.S.-style scholarly monoculture and reconstituting other forms of scholarship as marginal and inferior. In this essay, we explore the ways in which the English language is implicated in these processes. Drawing on language-sensitive studies of academic work and our own experiences as nonnative speakers of English, we argue that the use of U.S.-dominated rankings is not just hierarchizing and homogenizing the global field of management but also contributing to its Englishization. This, we contend, furthers the homogenization of the field while also producing significant language-based inequalities and inducing demanding quasi-colonial forms of identity work by those being Englishized.
Keywords: management education, organization theory, power and politics
The Pursuit of Success in Academia: Plato's Ghost Asks "What then?"
Vol. 30(1): 68-73
What do we pursue as we seek success in academia? For most, the path to academic success focuses narrowly on A-level journal publications, which has caused a stealthy but steady erosion in the very essence of academia. In this essay, we explore that erosion by drawing on the poem by William Butler Yeats titled "What then?" to highlight the questions, doubts, and perils that lie at each of the four stages of academic life: doctoral student, junior professor, senior professor, and professor emeritus. We then offer a new set of questions that academics may ask at each stage to remain true to their sense of scholarly identity and calling. Our hope is to shine a critical spotlight on the modal journey and inspire a confident and courageous few to deviate from that well-trodden path and chart a course that is truer to the essence, purpose, and potential of academia.
Keywords: academic success, vocation, calling, Yeats, academic impact, research
A Call to Practice Context in Management and Organization Studies
Patricia Genoe McLaren and Gabrielle Durepos
Vol. 30(1): 74-84
We put forth a call to management and organization studies (MOS) researchers to practice context in their research. Context is not, as it is so commonly treated, a stable object to be invoked as a background for our work. Contexts are inherently plural and fluid, and they shift depending on our phenomenon of interest and philosophical framing. We need to engage with context respective to our paradigm of choice, embed context into our research, explain how and why the relevant context was formulated, and acknowledge that the relevant context we have formulated influences both the questions we ask and the answers we find. In this article, we review the use of context in MOS, discuss the current understandings of context across paradigms and offer reasons for why MOS does not practice context, and draw on work done in other social science disciplines to help us practice context.
Keywords: qualitative research, philosophy of science, organization theory
Why Suffering Matters!
Vol. 30(1): 85-90
Despite Peter Frost's (1999, p. 128) call for organizational scholars and practitioners to "find suffering as a significant aspect of organizational life," both have largely remained silent about it. This silence misrepresents the fact that suffering is a pervasive, inescapable, and costly organizational reality. Suffering matters, and a recognition of our general inattention to it exposes an under-appreciated shortcoming of established theories and approaches to management. We must acknowledge, account for, and explicitly investigate suffering if we are to truly understand the full humanity of organizational life. Accordingly, this paper outlines promising areas for future research on suffering in organizations.
Keywords: affect/emotions, organizational behavior, positive organizational scholarship, quality of work life
MEET THE PERSON
Leading to Achieve Social Change: An Interview with Ruth Hunt, Former Chief Executive Officer of Stonewall
Richard Bolden, Rachel Williams, and Nicholas O'Regan
Vol. 30(1): 91-97
In this interview, Ruth Hunt, former CEO of the lesbian, gay, bi, and trans equality charity Stonewall and now crossbench peer at the House of Lords, discusses her approach to leadership for social change. She considers the changing context of LGBT rights, her motives for joining the organization, experiences and learning from leading change on this agenda, and the challenges of addressing power, privilege, and embedded cultural norms in order to create a truly inclusive workplace. Key themes include managing the tensions between an assimilation and liberation approach to social change, promoting intersectionality and positive action to enhance inclusion, the challenges and opportunities of sharing power and the skills of facilitation, boundary-spanning and working relationally that constitute the everyday practice of leadership in complex and contested landscapes. A commentary is provided that highlights links to and implications for leadership, management and organization scholarship, education and practice.
Keywords: leadership, change/transformation, diversity, power and politics
PROVOCATIONS & PROVOCATEURS
A Letter to the Male "Good Apples" about How You May Be Viewed by Your Female Colleagues
Vol. 30(1): 98-101
This is an open letter to my White-male academic colleagues, whose sometimes well-intentioned attempts to interact with, mentor, or be supportive can come across as tone-deaf to your female colleagues and doctoral students. Maybe you are not quite the good apple you thought you were.
REFLECTIONS ON EXPERIENCE
Behind the Numbers: Questioning Questionnaires
Katja Einola and Mats Alvesson
Vol. 30(1): 102-114
Is complex, ambiguous, and fluctuating social reality measurable? Sometimes yes, perhaps, but often not. At least not in the fairly straightforward way assumed by many researchers. This study is an ethnographic inquiry into data collection during a survey research project. Based on our observations of participants' spontaneous thoughts and confusions as they filled in questionnaires on "leadership" and "teamwork", we draw attention to hidden problems in much organizational research. Many respondents found measures ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading. We (a) underline the inherently interpretative nature of research into complex organizational phenomena, (b) warn against lack of reflexivity and overreliance on existing survey instruments when we study complex social aspects of organizations, (c) identify five categories of possible problems, and (d) suggest paths towards better informed research that take context seriously.
Keywords: survey studies, questionnaires, critical study, quality of research, qualitative study, quantitative study, leadership, teams, research methods, ethnography
The Editors and Editorial Board of JMI thanks Sage Publications for its generosity in sharing published articles openly.