Understanding Shifting Power Relations within and Across Organizations: A Critical Genre Analysis

Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 682-703, August 2009

61 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2011  

Natalia Levina

New York University

Wanda J. Orlikowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: July 21, 2008

Abstract

We explore how agents' participation in multi-party relationships shapes power dynamics within and across organizations. Drawing on an in-depth qualitative study of an inter-organizational consulting project, we examine how conditions of novelty and ambiguity lead to discursive tensions on multi-party engagements. Actions undertaken by agents on a consulting project take place in several overlapping institutional contexts at the same time: the field of management consulting, the client’s organization, and the consulting organization. These multiple contexts may provide inconsistent norms and expectations for guiding interaction on the project, thus producing discursive conflict. Clients and consultants will attempt to resolve these tensions while also trying to increase their party’s influence on the project. This situation creates opportunities for marginalized agents to change their conditions by drawing on alternative discursive resources from diverse institutional contexts. These agents may make discursive moves that deviate from established norms and expectations within their own organizations. When such discursive moves succeed and are accepted by others, they can reconfigure existing power dynamics within the agents’ organization, while simultaneously renegotiating power relations on the joint project. We develop a theoretical framework that articulates how engagement of alternative discursive resources can transform power relations within and across organizations.

Keywords: Inter-organizational collaboration, institutional theory, Bourdieu, Critical Theory, Genres, Organizational Communication

JEL Classification: L00

Suggested Citation

Levina, Natalia and Orlikowski, Wanda J., Understanding Shifting Power Relations within and Across Organizations: A Critical Genre Analysis (July 21, 2008). Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 682-703, August 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1791912

Natalia Levina (Contact Author)

New York University ( email )

44 West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

HOME PAGE: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~nlevina

Wanda J. Orlikowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E53-329
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0443 (Phone)
617-258-7579 (Fax)

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