ERIC Number: ED335723
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-May
Reference Count: N/A
Making-Sense of "Participation": An Exploratory Study of the Relationship between Leadership and the Sense-Making Process of Subordinates.
Erb, Michele J.
Defining "participation" as subordinate involvement with decision making in the work process, a study examined how a group of subordinates interpreted or made sense of participation, and the role the leader played in the sense-making process. Interviews and observation techniques were used to capture the sense-making of individuals in one particular work group (10 employees and 1 group leader) involved in developing computer networking facilities for a large midwestern university. Results showed an environment where general job responsibilities of individuals and goals of the work group were determined by management with very little participation from work group members, while each subordinate had virtually total control over his or her work. Further, results showed a participatory work group characterized by contradictions that existed between areas where participation was encouraged, allowed, and expected, and areas where non-participation was expected and assumed. Within this context, the group leader managed the meaning of participation by avoiding details, not assigning tasks or priorities, and remaining vague in certain areas where participation was encouraged. At the same time, the leader presented things as explicit, factual, and given in areas where non-participation was expected and assumed. Findings suggest that how leaders communicate can be a fruitful area for organizational communication research. (One table of data is included; and an appendix contains a coding manual. There are 36 references. (Author/SR)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Communication Behavior; Superior Subordinate Relationship
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association (41st, Chicago, IL, May 23-27, 1991).