Action Research on Employee Silence: The need for Negative Capability in Leadership

Bidragets oversatte titel: Aktionsforskning i medarbejder tavshed: Et behov for negativ kapabilitet i ledelse

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Focusing on the role of leadership, this report on an action research process discusses employee and organisational silence. Applying system psychodynamics to organisational theory, I argue for tolerance to provisional indecision in leadership as a means to promote openness and acceptance of debate and criticism in a climate that takes into account the unconscious dynamics of organisations.

The research process focused on a merger between the citizen service center and the local library services in a Danish municipality of some 60,000 inhabitants. Staff members were urged to participate in working groups to discuss the reorganisation as such and their future tasks; however, disaffection and concerns about job security gave rise to serious problems between staff and leaders, and no constructive dialogue was established to deal with the issues. Employees’ failure to speak up and address their concerns was alleged by management to be the stumbling block to further action, and thus management ignored potential system failures. This position is based on an understanding that ‘talking about others’ creates a negative spiral of gossiping and distortion of facts. A management perspective that emphasized assertive action thus exacerbated staff frustrations and prevented the management team from acknowledging the true problems facing the organisation.

Bidragets oversatte titelAktionsforskning i medarbejder tavshed: Et behov for negativ kapabilitet i ledelse
TidsskriftManagement Revue
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)432-448
StatusUdgivet - 15 dec. 2018