Critical Management and the Undoing of Embedded Practices (session 332)

When:  Aug 10, 2020 from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (FR)

Whyte-Out: How the Creator of Groupthink Became Unseen by Management's History
Designated as a “Best Paper” for CMS
Author: Oliver Pol; Victoria U. of Wellington
Author: Todd Bridgman; Victoria U. of Wellington
Author: Stephen Cummings; Victoria U. of Wellington

Irving Janis’ (1971) concept of ‘groupthink’, the idea that the desire for consensus overrides the realistic appraisals of alternatives and leads to poor decision making, is a staple of management and organizational behavior textbooks. Despite gaining little support in empirical studies, Janis’ eight symptoms of groupthink remains a popular framework taught to budding managers. What has been forgotten, however, is that nearly 20 years before Janis’ supposed invention, groupthink was created by William H Whyte, author of one of the 1950s’ most influential and popular books on management. We investigate how Whyte’s link to groupthink became invisible to management’s history, why this matters, and how recovering Whyte’s ideas can provide fresh, critical insights into people dynamics in contemporary organizations.


The Facade of Neoliberal Merit: Empty Work and Unethical Subjects at a Business School
Best Doctoral Student Paper is sponsored by the journal Organization
Author: Vivek G. Nair; Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Author: Devi Vijay; Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

In this study, we interrogate how the professional managerial class-in-making at an Indian business school reproduces neoliberal discourse of merit. Specifically, we attend to the local social and political formations of discourse of merit and examine its consequences. Empirically, this qualitative study draws on student interviews, qualitative questionnaire responses and a student’s poem titled, ‘A scheduled caste girl’. We found that neoliberal merit is refracted through Indian middle-class aspirations, while responsibilizing those from disadvantaged caste and class backgrounds for educational attainment, English language fluency, and access to networks. Simultaneously, discourse of merit creates a façade which shields ‘empty work’ and the production of unethical subjects who discriminate on the basis of caste and English language skills, and are indifferent to public interests. We introduce the concept of ‘empty work’ and elucidate the implications of an empty work ethic in higher educational institutions. We contribute to critical management studies on the normalization of unethical behavior in the managerial class-in-making and shed light on the caste and post-colonial contours of merit in Indian higher education.


Between Facts and Norms: CSR Communication and the Reproduction of Power
Best Critical Ethics Paper sponsored by the Journal of Business Ethics
Author: Kaiyu Shao; China U. of Political Science and Law
Author: Maddy Janssens; KU Leuven

Whereas research generally assumes a positive role of CSR communication, this study, in line with recent critical work, investigates the power dynamics that underlie CSR communication within the public sphere. Building on Habermas’ empirical conditions for public deliberation, we examine how corporate power not only settles into CSR communication but also reproduces the wrong structure of global civil society. Through critical semiotic multimodal analysis of CSR videos of reputable multinational companies, we uncovered three communicative types of CSR, CSR as Rescuing, Preaching and Facilitating, that impair, in different ways, an inclusive and responsive civil society. These findings contribute to understanding power within CSR communication in terms of 1) exclusionary constructions of local communities and 2) non-responsiveness of the audience through colonizing the public sphere with business logic.



There is No Lean In for Men
Best Critical Paper on Gender sponsored by the Journal of Gender, Work & Organization
Designated as a “Best Paper” for CMS
Author: Nicole Ferry; City U. of Seattle
Author: Eric Guthey; Copenhagen Business School

There is no Lean In for men. That is, in the mass market leadership press, in leadership development circles, and in much of leadership research, the counterpoint to “women’s leadership” is not “men’s leadership,” but just plain, gender-neutral “leadership.” In this paper, we explore the discursive, cultural, and gender politics behind the stark divide between the popularity of women’s leadership on the one hand, and the relative non-existence of men’s leadership as a comparable topic of concern on the other. Toward this end, we track the rise of women’s leadership discourse, we discuss the subtle (and not so subtle) gendered nature of supposedly gender-neutral leadership speak, and we analyze the differences between a best- selling women’s leadership text and a popular ‘gender-neutral’ text. On this basis, we argue that the prominence of “women’s leadership,” together with the comparable lack of a “men’s leadership,” functions to reinforce a masculinist leadership discourse that flies under the banner of “just good leadership.” We also argue that over-attention to women as a special case in leadership contexts, and often as a problem to fix, ultimately reinforces sexist and/or misogynistic attitudes that can undermine the very project of empowerment that women’s leadership discourse seeks to promote.


Expatriate-Local Inequality as Epistemic Dominance in International Development Organizations
Best Critical Paper on International Business is sponsored by the journal Critical Perspectives on International Business
Author: Emily Cook-Lundgren; U. of Edinburgh
Author: Ishbel McWha-Hermann; U. of Edinburgh
Author: Thomas Stephen Calvard; U. of Edinburgh

This paper explores the persistence of inequality between “expatriate” and “local” staff in international development organizations despite these organizations’ outward aims of equality and improving lives. We draw on 33 qualitative interviews, observation, and documents collected over a three-month period at a development organization in Nairobi, Kenya. Analyzed through the lens of coloniality, the data illustrate how unequal relations are perpetuated through the legitimization of Western epistemic perspectives, which naturalize and authorize expatriate-local difference. This difference persists through organizational practices that prioritize equality, unity, and meritocracy. By providing novel empirical insights into operations of coloniality in organization in the Global South, we show how relations of domination codified in the colonial era persist and contribute to ongoing inequality through epistemic dominance. In doing so, we illuminate the mechanisms that not only give rise to racial difference in work and organization but also facilitate its persistence, contributing to efforts to break the silence on race in organizations and development.

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