Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Exploration of Organizational Practices That Encourage Dissent and Their Influence on Organizational Decisions
by Forst, Marikay Swartz, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2018, 164; 10977872
Abstract (Summary)

This study explored the practices organizations employ to solicit and consider dissent, and the influence of these practices on organizational decision making. Although there is agreement in the literature that soliciting and considering dissent can lead to better decisions, there are significant gaps in the literature. The value of dissent has been studied for many years and specific recommendations have been made to encourage opposing views and seek alternatives when making organizational decisions. However, not many studies have addressed whether organizations are using these recommended practices or other models to encourage dissent.

A qualitative study using individual interviews was conducted to obtain an in-depth understanding of practices used in organizations. Thirty leaders across 19 organizations were interviewed individually to obtain the specifics of practices that influence dissent expression. Participant perceptions indicated that organizational history, culture and leadership are significant influencers in whether employees will dissent in an organization, but practices are necessary to bring about dissent. The data in this study also indicated that power and consequences are barriers to effective dissent and can be mitigated through dissent encouraging practices.

This research provides strong support for the literature and extends the literature by identifying methods and practices used by organizations that encourage dissent. Specific accounts from leaders in organizations show that dissent can a) lead to innovation; b) lead to avoidance of mistakes; and c) lead to mistakes when it is absent or not considered. Prior studies have addressed the value of dissent, but few qualitative studies provide examples of organizational decisions resulting from dissent. Additional findings from this study highlight 1) the importance of one-on-one and small group communication in soliciting dissenting views; 2) decision-making methods that provide an avenue to evoke and consider dissent; and 3) the emphasis on consideration of stakeholder views versus the devil’s advocate in decision making. Finally, practices that solicit dissent can be valuable even when dissent is not heeded, as they can lead to a quick reversal of a decision when necessary.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watts, Caroline L.
Commitee: Kaminstein, Dana, Schulte, Ann, Van Dam, Nick
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Chief Learning Officer
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 80/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Organizational behavior
Keywords: Decision making, Dissent, Employee voice, Group dynamics, Organizational decisions, Organizational practices
Publication Number: 10977872
ISBN: 9780438762763
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