Contradictions in qualitative management research: Consensus and dissensus perspectives on impression, identity and management work

Bidragets oversatte titel: Modsigelser i kvalitativ management research: Consensus og dissensus perspektiver på indtryk, identitet, og ledelsesarbejde

Per Richard Hansen, Jens Dorland

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Purpose: Contradictory accounts in empirical material are often perceived as deliberate “lies” or “misleading deceptions” performed in acts of impression management, or they are simply neglected. When observed in the material collected empirically, methods have been developed in order to identify and remove them from the analytical work. The purpose of this paper is to re-visit and re-introduce a dissensus-based management research strategy in order to analytically be able to work with what appear to be contradictions and misinformation in qualitative research accounts, and give them a more profound role in the understanding of management ideas, work and practices.

Design/methodology/approach: A literature review is presented on consensus and dissensus orientated theories on contradictions and multiple and conflicting identities in a single individual in an ethnographic inquiry. The purpose is to analyse and reflect upon the contradictory information gathered, and how it can shed light upon important aspects of the management work and practices performed by the informant. This is done by focusing on apparent contradictions in a single interview situation from an ethnographic case study through, respectively a consensus and a dissensus perspective.

Findings: The findings indicate that dealing with contradictions and inner conflicts between self-view and external demands and conditions, led the informant to the production of multiple narrative self-identities imaging multiple realities that all appeared real to the informant. Each of these realities had different and contradictory impacts on the ideas and management work and practices he presented and performed in the organisation. These findings challenge the notions of “lies”, “deception” and “misinformation” in management research, and call for a more reflexive approach to analysis work in ethnographic accounts.

Originality/value: By applying consensus and dissensus-oriented theories to a single account the authors point to conditions, phenomena and relations, which most current and historic management research streams fail to see. Multiple and conflicting identities surface in a single respondent during an interview situation, creating clearly self-contradictory and conflicting narratives and practices, that all appear to be oblivious to the respondent. These multiple and
contradictory narrative identities all have significant impact on the management work performed by the respondent.

Keywords: Contradictions, Impression management, Qualitative research, Management research,

Dissensus-oriented theories, Multiple identities

Paper type: Research paper
Bidragets oversatte titelModsigelser i kvalitativ management research: Consensus og dissensus perspektiver på indtryk, identitet, og ledelsesarbejde
TidsskriftBaltic Journal of Management
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)44-64
StatusUdgivet - 7 jan. 2016


  • Contradictions
  • Impression management
  • Management research
  • Qualitative research

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