Narratives of working within a complex organisation: Ethnographic study of cultural competence
Lindner, Susan Helga
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Lindner, S. (2011) Narratives of working within a complex organisation: Ethnographic study of cultural competence, no. 243.
The aim of this research was to shed light on the multiple social realities within an organisation and provide perspectives on how individuals made sense of the social world, which enabled them to participate in these social realities. As Smircich (1983) explained, culture is something that an organisation is, rather than has. As such, the literature considered ways of assisting individuals to survive and thrive within complex social realities and the personal costs associated with participating in them. The literature was used to demonstrate how my view changed from understanding organisations as beings to considering them as subjective cultures. I based this research on an interpretative phenomenology. My views were influenced by my desire to explore and interpret the experiences of individuals, who were the organisation's directors. Ethnography enabled me to take into account the knowledge shown in everyday social interactions in the workplace. Multiple perspectives and influences, which shaped this social world, were illuminated by bringing to the surface individual experiences and perceptions. These were achieved by gathering responses to a questionnaire; transcripts of interviews with the eleven directors; four pilot interviews with employees, who were not directors; pre and post interview sheets; and my reflective diary. The diary provided a transparent account of the research process and included an acknowledgment of any potential bias. This research relied heavily on the views expressed by the eleven directors in their interviews and my own views. Consequently, I wrote this thesis in the first person whenever possible. I chose a theatrical method, aligned to the work of Goffman (1959), to present this research; using acts and scenes to represent the main formal and informal cultural clues, which emerged. I presented Burke's dramatism model (1945, 1969) of human behaviour as a means of understanding the cultural clues, which were revealed. The findings contribute to an understanding of organisational life and are relevant for those, who want to understand the dynamics of human groups, which, ultimately, may lead to improving our lives in this world. By acknowledging the existence of the cultural scenario and by revealing the characteristics of those, who blunder and those, who exploit, this research demonstrates that individuals have to be encouraged to see the cognitive and visible aspects of the culture, which exist within the structures and processes, the roles and the knowledge and communication, which exist within organisations. We can comprehend this world from many viewpoints if we only take the time to look.