Toward a grounded theory of consultative participation as a mechanism for managing conflict under conditions of uncertainty

Karen Lynette Proudford, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This study addresses a controversy in the literature regarding the effectiveness of participation in organizational settings by investigating the antecedents and consequences of initiatives which stress employee involvement. A grounded theory of consultative participation which posits participation as a mechanism for managing conflict in organizations is developed based on data gathered from a two-year field study in a major U.S. bank. Conflict is viewed as arising from the multiplicity of organization and identity group memberships which constitute individuals and groups in organizations. Increasing the permeability of these group membership boundaries and achieving coordinated action is seen as a source of significant managerial uncertainty and indecision. These conditions are precursors to participation programs which aim to use superordinate goals in order to galvanize employee resources. Findings indicate that the use of superordinate goals can generate rather than abate conflict. Participation groups become arenas within which organizational conflict is enacted, and the escalation of conflict within the participation group ultimately serves to facilitate managerial action. Findings from this study suggest that rigorous, empirically-based theory that addresses multiple levels of analysis is needed for an increased understanding of participation.

Subject Area

Management|Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Proudford, Karen Lynette, "Toward a grounded theory of consultative participation as a mechanism for managing conflict under conditions of uncertainty" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627992.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9627992

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