15 December 2008

EMD III: Dealing with Disagreement, Dissent, and Outright Opposition

If you have arrived at this post directly, and are not familiar with my research, you may want to also visit some of the posts under the Valence Theory and Thesis labels, as well as reading the very quick primer.

How does an organization, and its leadership, deal with disagreement, dissent and outright opposition to decisions and processes in the organization? When does “drinking the Kool-Aid” become mandatory in an organizational culture, and when do opposing viewpoints cause a leader to question whether the dissenting individual is “playing on the same team?” The semantic of “dealing with” itself needs to be unpacked and probed: in what contexts does “dealing with” necessitate ensuring compliance, as opposed to finding a way to create consensus, as opposed to being able to manage polarities and hold tensions? Under which circumstance is it important for specific, pre-conceived objectives, approaches or outcomes to prevail, irrespective of secondary (or tertiary) effects, as opposed to those circumstances for which a new, synthesized approach, objective or effect is appropriate? Are there characteristic behaviours relative to this situation of dealing with disagreement, dissent and outright opposition that distinguish BAH and UCaPP organizations?

It would seem to me (and indications are emerging from the data that inform this intuition) that more-BAH organizations, used to processes of control and deterministic outcomes, would seek to resolve ambiguities that lead to opposing views through whatever means might be necessary. A somewhat enlightened BAH organization might strive to create such means that are close to espoused theory, be it the legitimate leader making a final decision after some process of consultation, or an attempt at consensus-building (either authentic or passive-coercive). Diverse opinions may be sought in such an attempt either by honestly considering differing contexts and meaning-making, or as part of an engagement designed to flush out dissenters and convert their opinions to something more acceptable. On the other hand, a more-UCaPP organization might be comfortable with allowing the ambiguity to remain, allowing guidance to emerge over time – holding the tension of the polarity, as Barry Johnson (and Marilyn Laiken) say.

Dissent or opposition can be distinguished by its target – it is either directed at the fungible forms of valence relationships, or against their ba-aspects. This, in turn, translates into “dealing with” dissent or opposition to either (a) the objectives, goals or outcomes of the organization; (b) the effects or intentions of the organization; or (c) both. In the latter case, the individual is clearly a member of the wrong organization. The other two cases are far more interesting; the chosen resolution of each of (a) and (b) may prove to be characteristic of the more-BAH or more-UCaPP organization. In particular, an attack on the ba-aspects might well be anathema, not to mention fatal, to the UCaPP organization in ways that the analogous attack on the fungible-aspects might be survivable by the BAH organization.

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1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

What happened to your post of 17 Dec, What is organization? that seems to have been deleted ...