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Conversational Empowerment Ryan W. Quinn & Bidhan Parmar University of Virginia March, 2008

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1 Conversational Empowerment Ryan W. Quinn & Bidhan Parmar University of Virginia March, 2008 http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://cabcalvinandhobbes.tripod.com/ChPictureGallery/calvin_winter.gif&imgrefurl=http://cabcalvinandhobbes.tripod.com/ch_picturegallery.htm&h=195&w=161&sz=5&hl=en&start=199&tbnid=8y9mJVAHNu3w4M:&tbnh=104&tbnw=86&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcalvin%2Bhob bes%26start%3D180%26ndsp%3D20%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26rls%3DGGLG,GGLG:2005-29,GGLG:en%26sa%3DN

2 How do organizational actors become empowered? What is empowerment? A psychological state (Spreitzer, 1995) ? Inclusion/participation (Blau & Alba, 1982) ? Emancipation from technologies of production and discipline (Foucault, 1972) ? A move from power over to power with (Follett, 1941) ? How does empowerment happen? Decentralization and delegation (Spreitzer, 1995) ? Integrating networks (Blau & Alba, 1982) ? Innovation (Clegg, 1989) ? Transcending dualisms (Follett, 1941) ? http://l-u-k-e.co.uk/images/stupendous.gif

3 Conversational Empowerment A communicative process through which actors transform the organizational narratives they enact from narratives in which others exercise power over them to ones in which they exercise power over others, power with others, or the power to choose for themselves. –Narratives: themed, social, and temporal texts we use to organize our experience, understanding, and action in organizations.

4 Contributions Explains how actors use communicative actions to empower Integrates and differentiates psychological and structural views on empowerment Suggests ways to expand psychological empowerment to include structural considerations Expands structural empowerment to include narratives and actors at multiple levels Introduces domination as empowerment

5 Literature Review Bartunek & Spreitzer (2006) review Empowerment as inclusion (e.g., McGregor, 1960) Agency criticism (Conger & Kanungo, 1988) Psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995 + hundreds of citations) http://images1.fanpop.com/images/photos/1300000/Calvin-and- Hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-1395577-1024-768.jpg 1.Construct: Competence, Self-determination, Meaning, Impact 2.Antecedents: decentralization, delegation, self-esteem... 3.Consequences: innovative behavior, upward influence… Criticisms: “Feeling empowered is not being empowered” (Jacques, 1996), “Where is the power in empowerment (Boje & Rosile, 2001)

6 Visualizing Spreitzer Meaning Action ACTOR Psychological Empowerment CONTEXTS ORGANIZATION JOB

7 Power Power as causality (Hobbes) - A need for force suggests weakness, not strength. Power is not “held” by individuals, it is exercised more or less skillfully and more or less intentionally in the negotiation of meaning across social networks. Power is essentially communicative. Meanings privilege some actors over others, and legitimated meanings leave these privileges unquestioned. Legitimacy is a continuum.

8 Power Meaning Action (text) ACTOR 1 Meaning Action (text) ACTOR 2 Meaning Action (text) ACTOR 3 Psychological Empowerment CONTEXTS ORGANIZATION ACTOR 1’s JOB Historical perspective (from Hobbes): Power is causality. However, a need for force suggests weakness rather than power. Power is not “held” by individuals, it is exercised more or less skillfully and more or less intentionally in the negotiation of meaning across social networks. Power is essentially communicative. Meanings and contexts privilege some actors over others, and legitimated meanings leave these privileges unquestioned. Legitimacy is a continuum.

9 Narrative Exists as both institutional texts and individual texts, used to make sense – any text with temporality can be understood as narrative Orchestrates activity, experience, and understanding by emplotting action and conferring morals Organizations are enacted narratives Power is found in the imposition of narratives, narrative identities, and in subject-object relationships Narrative is situational; which narrative has meaning depends on current relevance and application Narrative is fractal

10 Visualizing Narrative Texts Meaning Action (text) ACTOR 1 Meaning Action (text) ACTO R 2 Meaning Action (text) ACTOR 3 CAPITALISM NARRATIVE CON-TEXTS ORGANIZATION LIFE JOB Psychological Empowerment Structural Empowerment

11 Communicative Actions Narrative Effect DirectiveCommand to submit to a new narrative CommissivePromise to submit to a new narrative AccreditiveConfers permission to act (tests/gifts) DeclarativeConfers new identities (tests/gifts) InformativeConfers propositional content (tests/gifts) ExpressiveConfers sanction to end (and moralize) narrative Actions create texts that construct reality Made sense of by actors; intent cannot be known Organizes reality in narrative: Manipulation, Competence, Performance, Sanction

12 Forms of Empowerment Emancipation –Narrative transformation from power under to power to Domination –Narrative transformation from power under to power over Collaboration –Narrative transformation from power under to power with

13 Empowering Accomplishments De-legitimation –Problematizing: introducing premises and disconnecting them from legitimate narratives Innovation –The recognition and declaration of a new narrative for that social domain Legitimation –Introducing premises tied to legitimate narratives and then removing them http://www.calvin-und-hobbes.com/chwp39l.jpg

14 Communicative Actions in Empowerment Communicative ActionsDe-LegitimationInnovationLegitimation Expressive Used to confer conditional negative sanction (emancipation and collaboration) or unconditional (domination) negative sanction Not used Used to confer conditional positive sanction (emancipation) or unconditional (domination and collaboration) positive sanction Declarative Used to partially re-define (emancipation and collaboration) or completely re-define (domination) the old, submissive narrative Used conditionally (emancipation), with the previously submissive actor as the subject and the previously dominant actor as the object (domination), or with inclusive referents to signal a collective actor (collaboration) Used to refine the new narrative (all types of narratives, but less refinement is needed for emancipation) Informative Used to justify expressive and declarative actions (all types of narratives) Used to transfer information (all types of narratives) Used to justify expressive and declarative actions (all types of narratives) Accreditive Used to rescind permission unconditionally (domination), conditionally (collaboration), or not used (emancipation) Not used Used to give permission (all types of narratives) Directive Used to question the legitimacy of old narratives or to solicit information that justifies expressives or declaratives (all types of narratives) Used to ask questions to seek information (all types of narratives) 1. Used to ask questions (all types of narratives) 2. Used to request the enacting of the new narrative (domination) or suggest the enacting of narrative sub-plots (collaboration) CommissiveUsed to commit to not participate in the old narrative (domination) Not usedUsed by the submissive actor (domination), or all relevant actors (collaboration) to submit to the new narrative

15 Discussion Communicative actions: –Goes beyond influence tactics to the conversational exercise of power –Reframes narration and argumentation Psychological Empowerment: –Temporary –Levels of analysis –Social networks Structural empowerment: –Empowerment across narratives –Actors are not necessarily duped –Provides a way to examine skillful empowerment Domination, submission, having a good story to tell


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