From Competing Commitments to Workthink as a Tactic of Resistance

By Marilyn Wells and Gabriela Coronado.

Published by Organizational Cultures: An International Journal

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This paper considers social and political aspects of organizational change arising from the selection of a new informaiton system, and emphasizes the importance of understanding how competing commitments can lead to workthink as a tactic of resistance to organizational change. Perceptions play an important role in the political decisions made by various groups during organizational change, and this can be seen in the interactions of staff during the meetings. Workthink can be defined as an act of agreeing to a particular action so that the participant can return to a task that he or she perceives to be more important than the reason for the meeting. Workthink can have significant impact on the success of a change implementation, especially if workthink actions are reinforced by informal communications amongst staff. This paper reports a particular change event brought about by the selection and recommendation to implement a new information system. The steering committee for the project comprised members drawn from various departments throughout the organization. The use of workthink as a political strategy explains some of the reactions of the committee members to the meetings. Given that not all members attended committee meetings on each occasion, their workthink strategy may explain the apparent haste to conclude the meetings, or the disinterest that some members related that they felt during the meetings. In this case, workthink can be further interpreted as a form of resistance in which delaying decisions and the manipulation of tasks would provide opportunities to build up coalitions with other committee members who did not attend the meeting.

Keywords: Power, Knowledge Gatekeeper, Groupthink, Workthink, Competing Commitments, Cognitive Dissonance

Organizational Cultures: An International Journal, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.33-43. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 251.352KB).

Dr. Marilyn Wells

Lecturer, School of Information and Communication Technology , Faculty of Arts, Business, Informatics and Education, Learning and Teaching Education Research Centre, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Marilyn Wells is a lecturer in the School of Engineering and Technology at Central Queensland University, and located at the Rockhampton Campus in Central Queensland. She received her Ph.D. in 2009 and a Master of Commerce (Information Systems) in 2000, both from the University of Western Sydney. Her research interests involve issues surrounding information systems, particularly organisational change, resistance to change, and the power redistribution that generally follows such change.

Dr. Gabriela Coronado

Senior Lecturer, School of Business, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Mexican anthropologist with a Ph.D. in Social Ecology from the University of Western Sydney, Australia since 2001. Previously in Mexico she researched for 28 years on different aspects of Mexican culture, language and identity, focusing on issues of intercultural communication and politics between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Currently a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies in the School of Business, at the University of Western Sydney. Her research interests fall into the broad area of the Politics of Culture and its implications for social groups and organizations. She employs an interdisciplinary perspective, which includes Ethnography, Semiotics, Discourse Analysis and Critical Management Studies. Her research interests include intercultural dialogues and the complexities of culture, society and politics in the context of globalisation, including new technologies, transnational relationships and cultural impacts on the generation of new forms of cultural and social organisation. She also studies social movements and the gaps between discourses and practices, specifically in the area of Social Responsibility and the accountability of business impacts on society.