Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The power of forgotten opinions: Why an organization chooses inaction over the public's safety
by Shimazoe, Junko, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012, 251; 3549651
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation aims to explain why organizations and their members cannot prevent large-scale accidents even when there is prior information concerning a problem. Large-scale accidents, which are also called "organizational accidents", are low-probability events, but once they occur, the outcomes are disastrous both in and out of an organization. However, due to their rarity and specific characteristics, few organization theories explain in a simple, straightforward manner how members' choices lead to organizational-level decisions that cause such accidents. This shortcoming is conspicuous with respect to members' decisions in a "gray zone", in which no clear crises or threats to organizational goals and performance are present.

In this dissertation, I explain the relationship between members' choices and organizational-level decisions in a "gray zone" rather than organizational preparedness for, and responses to, accidents or crises. For this purpose, I draw on theories on social psychology, organizational cognition, and group behaviors and utilize multi-level models and agent-based simulation. The particular focus of this dissertation is how differences in organizational conditions surrounding speaking up on and taking action against potential problems change members' and organizational decisions.

This dissertation clarifies that organizational choices of action or inaction depend on the opinions of members who are detached from the discussions of potential problems. The detached members include non-experts, members with higher power and status, and those with more or fewer peers, depending on organizational conditions. In addition, as organizational conditions become less favorable to speaking up and taking action, the opinions of the detached are more likely to prevent members from reaching a consensus on what to do. In a "gray zone", in which a clear threat to organizational performance has not emerged yet, the opinions of the detached members tend to be left unheard or forgotten. When these forgotten opinions favor inaction against potential problems, it is more likely that organizations do nothing and the inaction eventually leads to rare but salient events.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Aldrich, Howard E.
Commitee: Andrews, Kenneth T., Burton, Richard M., Rockart, Scott F., Sapolsky, Harvey M., Zimmer, Catherine
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Occupational psychology, Organization Theory, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Agent-based simulation, Organizational accidents, Organizational decision-making, Public safety, Rare events
Publication Number: 3549651
ISBN: 9781267861658
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