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Struggle for meaning in radical change: A critical discourse analysis of middle managers’ discourse

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dc.contributor.advisor Leona, Achtenhagen (Prof)
dc.contributor.author Yared, Asrat
dc.date.accessioned 2019-10-19T08:54:09Z
dc.date.available 2019-10-19T08:54:09Z
dc.date.issued 2019-03
dc.identifier.uri http://localhost:80/xmlui/handle/123456789/19522
dc.description A dissertation submitted to The Department of Management, Addis Ababa University Presented in partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management en_US
dc.description.abstract Although research on middle management is growing, it is locked into either/or and positive/negative views. For instance, the pessimistic view paints middle managers as foot-draggers, saboteurs, and resistant during radical change and suggests that the top management should watch out for middle managers during any radical change. On the other hand, the optimistic view suggests that middle managers have strategic contributions to make when strategies and changes are implemented. Hence, existing research on the middle management has two limitations: First, the agency of middle managers is denied space or it is presented as a phenomenon that is structurally determined. Second, middle managers are presented as a single, univocal and homogenous entity. This study tries to restore the agency and diversity of middle managers by using the discourse theory as its theoretical lens. Discourse-based studies on organizational change in general, and those on the role of middle managers in radical change in particular, are increasing. However, I argue that these studies do not provide a comprehensive and integrated account of organizational change or the role of middle managers during radical change, thus, leading to their results being incomplete. Stated differently, these studies tend to overlook the ‘plurivocality’ and ‘contextuality’ of change. Therefore, the overall purpose of this thesis is to provide an integrated and comprehensive account of organizational change from the middle management perspective. To achieve this, I conducted an in-depth case study of Dashen Bank which was undertaking organizational restructuring and investigated the role of middle managers during this restructuring process. The data was mainly generated using the interview technique. However, I also used secondary material and analyzed the data using the abductive approach. It was found that although the top management organized the restructuring team and assigned its members, it followed a hands-off approach. Therefore, this study empirically documents the discursive struggles of different groups of middle managers, that is, the protagonists (comprising the restructuring team and others who propagated the official discourse) and antagonists to fix meaning regarding the restructuring and the new structure. Both subject positions mobilized different discursive practices to make their discourse regarding the restructuring dominant and discounting their adversaries’ discourse thereby creating preferable social relations. This study also shows how textual level rhetorical appeals inform and justify the discourse practices of both the antagonists and protagonists of the restructuring and the new structure. It also found that both the antagonists and protagonists drew on different societal and grand discourses as resources in their discursive struggles. Stated differently, external discourses were imported to the organization in a way that supported their discourse and undermined the discursive practices of the other group. In line with the view that discourse constitutes concepts, objects and subject positions, this study documents that different groups of middle managers who occupied different social spaces and thus warranted a voice (subject positions) struggled over questions of ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘why’ about restructuring (concept) to create preferential social and material relations (objects). Finally, the discursive practices of the antagonists effectively undermined and reversed the discursive practices of the protagonists (the restructuring team and others) as the top management decided in favor of the former. As a result, the bank is currently undergoing a new restructuring, the second restructuring in less than two years. This study contributes to middle management and change management literature. It extends middle management literature by restoring the diversity and agency of middle managers during radical change. Middle managers are not passive victims of organizational restructuring; they can actively shape or influence the restructuring process via their discursive practices. Moreover, this study also shows that middle managers are not alike and do not respond in a similar manner to changes or any other situation, and are instead a heterogeneous group of actors. This study also adds to change management literature by empirically showing that change and discourse are mutually constitutive. This study identified different levels of discourses and shows how they influenced each other. It also shows empirically that no one enjoys sovereign power since there are always multiple and alternative (contradictory) discourses which constitute different subject positions. By assuming one of the subject positions, this study shows how middle managers exercised power and challenged the official discourse. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Addis Ababa University en_US
dc.subject Change en_US
dc.subject Radical change en_US
dc.title Struggle for meaning in radical change: A critical discourse analysis of middle managers’ discourse en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US


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