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Contrasting perspectives on the subjective managerial role
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Psychology.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Managerial behavior often differs between individuals and situations. To understand this variation the manager’s own interpretation of the role, context and role behavior is especially important. In this thesis several managers’ subjective views and understandings of their role during an organizational change period were investigated in great detail. The organizational changes were assumed to put pressure on the managerial role, exposing adaptive and dynamic role aspect and thereby shed light on differences in behavior. The general purpose was to thoroughly investigate the concept of ‘subjective managerial role’ by two contrasting approaches. One was influenced by concepts and methods used in social constructivism and constructionism (Study 1-3), and the other was a rational/cognitive approach influenced by theories and methods used in cognitive psychology (Study 4-5). Multiple case studies with subjective reports from five managers during a period of sixteen months were chosen as the empirical base. In the constructivist approach three judges were used to interpret the managers’ verbal reports during the beginning of the change period, focusing on indications of ‘subjective role projects’. ‘Subjective role projects’ involved reflections on situations, actors, purposes/goals and action strategies, all within a time frame of the past, present and future. This qualitative content of the role was investigated, and support for the existence of subjective role projects was tested (Study 1). The variation between the managers’ subjective role projects and their general project strategies were explored (Study 2). The judgment and construction process pursued by the three judges was analyzed (Study 3). In the rational/cognitive approach the focus was on role problems. A control model was used to represent subjective role conflicts, on both group and individual levels. Difficult situations described by the managers were complemented with goals and actions strategies, and the managers rated conflicts between these role components, while thinking-aloud (Study 4). Role conflict patterns and dimensions were further analyzed using two quantitative data models (Study 5). Finally, the subjective role construct was compared with a contextual interpretation of the role, based on information from the organizational and social role context (Study 6). The results supported the basic components in both the project model and the control model of the subjective role, but the latter approach would benefit from a more elaborated stimulus sampling. In both approaches the differences between the managers were assessed, but in the constructivist approach it was difficult to separate variation stemming from managers from variation between judges. In the rational/cognitive approach the variation was restricted to conflicting aspects in a specific model. The control model features and the quantitative conflict data made it easier to estimate variance. A major conclusion was that the two approaches complemented each-other in their descriptions of the subjective role. The project model was adequate for investigating the first sense-making phases in the organizational change process, while the control model approach could describe role conflicts and problems, especially on individual levels. However, they both could fit within a framework of a subjective role process model. Using these two approaches in role analysis can provide more information on the subjective role processes of the role incumbent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Psykologi , 2005. , 286 p.
Keyword [en]
Psychology, Managerial role, role theory, organizational change, subjective role projects, role problems
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-517ISBN: 91-7305-881-5OAI: diva2:143666
Public defence
2005-06-09, bt 102, Beteendevetarhuset, 90187, Umeå, 13:15
Available from: 2005-04-28 Created: 2005-04-28Bibliographically approved

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