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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Relational Equality or Moral Distress? How Managers Make Sense of Speaking Up
by Sikerbol, Catherine Ann, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2018, 287; 10817663
Abstract (Summary)

Much of the research on employee voice has focused on voice as a property of the individual, emphasizing the characteristics of front line, individual employees, and leader behaviour that enables or constrains voice. This qualitative study explored the lived experience of mid-level managers speaking up to their supervisors with the aim of understanding how managers experience and make sense of speaking up in the workplace, and the relational and contextual factors that enable or constrain voice.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 senior and mid-level academic managers from 12 higher education institutions across Canada and the United States during which participants described positive and negative experiences of speaking up. Thematic analysis of transcribed narrative accounts (both inductive and deductive coding), combined with coding of participant figurative language and resonant metaphors provided rich, vivid, descriptions of participant experiences.

Two storylines emerged from the analysis. The pulling together narrative, based on positive experiences, described how leaders contributed to a relational context characterized by a sense of relational equality that enabled voice. The standing apart narrative, based on negative experiences, described how leaders contributed to a relational context that constrained voice. As a consequence, managers experienced moral distress which suppressed voice.

This study highlights the importance of the relational context in enabling and constraining voice, and demonstrates how authority-ranking social relations shape the relational context that constrains voice. Findings suggest that a positive relational context may be an important enabler of voice, while a negative relational context constrains voice and contributes to moral distress. Recommendations for future research and implications for leadership practice are addressed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gallegos, Placida V.
Commitee: Cornelissen, Joep P., Lewis, Michael S., Rosenthal, Patrice E., Willis, David B.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Management, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Metaphor, Moral distress, Narrative, Relational context, Relational equality, Voice
Publication Number: 10817663
ISBN: 978-0-355-97313-6
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