REFLEXIVE AND REFLECTIVE THEORIES OF ORGANIZATION

Organizational Theory:

The interdisciplinary nature of REFLEXIVE AND REFLECTIVE THEORIES OF ORGANIZATION makes it a complex array of concepts and approaches which covers insights and knowledge from a variety of disciplines such as economics, sociology, political science, ecology, behavioral psychology, cultural studies, and linguistics. Thus somewhat ironic and misleading image of organization theory emerges from the diversity of distinct theories comprised in organization studies (Jones, &  Munro, 2005).

In this paper, reflexive and reflective organization theories have been explored, while analyzing the Senor Payroll case through these lenses and evaluating these perspectives in the light of present competitive forces and other organization perspectives.

Reflexive Perspective on Organizations:

The objective of a critical theory of business organizations is to avoid friction… discussion… and eliminate the practices which do not allow self-sufficiency and taking of responsibility… a liberal approach.

The ‘reflexive’ means that during the in-depth analysis of an organizations life, we can come across the issues like authority and other issues of communication and emotional intelligence. In the organization, both the theories, Critical Theory (CT) and Psychoanalysis, are related with the organizational development and enabling people to be satisfied intellectually and emotionally (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

  • Critical theory discusses the empowerment of all members of an organization which is a concept of democracy.
  • Psychoanalysis discusses the deep issues which may result in the malfunctioning of an organization.
  • The collaboration of both theories gives methodologies of reflexive approach to address and resolve issues like authority, verbal communication, and feelings.
  • The combination is also helpful in finding different options which can be helpful for organizations in avoiding communication distortions in among different members (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

Both the theories deal in asking basic questions about management and leadership. CT is an uncovering of the fundamental aspect of society and its modern-day nature. It analyzes the distortion of communication between people due to authority and power. This is reflexive as it proposes that by the use of emotional intelligence and intellectual resources, we may be in a position to get rid of the problems identified (Jones, &  Munro, 2005).

According to Hegel, there exists a link between human labor activity and self-learning development. It is all about doing work and pushing our drawing on nature, to understand our own actual humanity. While, according to Mark, in our capitalist society, as we dominant by means of the production and resources, we have become alien with our own self and resultantly we got far away from a situation where we lose a sense of selfless (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

 

Critical theory has two aspects according to the participant of 1960, the intellectuals, who wanted revolutionary changes in society. The first theme was ‘instinct derives’, the concept of stopping the organization and society’s structure which, at the expense of people, allows organizations to produce and provide services. The concept is also known as ‘emancipator interest’. According to the view, on the one hand, there is the human being who is by its very nature, is collaborative and rational. While on the other hand, there are economical and social forces which are out of control and are the cause of problematic behaviors. These are the forces from which we need to liberate ourselves. So that, we may get rid of, so-called consumerism and selfishness towards own development. Many of the critical theories have a positive approach towards human nature i.e. we will behave cooperatively and organically with each other if there is no consumerist or production driven society (Jones, &  Munro, 2005).

The second theme of critical theory gives a rational basis for a method of understanding the world. The theme was, we live in a society were communication distorts our everyday life. This also happens in almost all levels of the organization and almost in all organizations. This is also evident from the corporate plans and reports of the organization where, they present themselves as perfect in all respect (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

Reflective Perspective of Organizations:

This perspective of organizations takes insights from two different perspectives. The first is that we as human beings make understanding of reality by making interoperations of symbols, whereas the second perspective is that members at organizations develop profound and contrasting views through their reflection about the deeper issues of organizational life. This reflective perspective requires one to develop an intellectual and emotional understanding of life and work in organizations to stand apart from the rush and crisis of everyday life (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

From organization theory perspective, one can deeply understand the ways organization members develop and understand their organizational culture and other factors and forces at work. Moreover, people get a richer understanding of core issues of organizational life with this reflective attitude and perspective.

According to the interpretive approach to organization theory, social reality cannot be fully understood with the methods of natural sciences, since the physical and social artifacts are fundamentally different from physical reality. Thus the organization’s culture comprised of values, beliefs, norms, stories, and symbol and structure presents a unique picture different from other organizations even in the same industry (Lee, 1991).

Moreover, people also get different meanings of the same physical artifacts, the same institutions or the same human action. It is essential that an organization’s management and leadership collect facts and data describing not only the purely objective, publically observable aspect of organization members but also the subjective meaning. This interpretive thought maintains that management should not rely only on quantitative and objective realities to observe the organizational environment since these methods are inadequate to give true meaning to observable facts and work life (Lee, 1991).

The reflexive perspective also provides organizations a room for creativity and innovation in order to break the rigidity and autonomy of individual choices. However, there are some constraints such as human-defined concepts of shared meaning and value.

This organization perspective has been developed through empirically grounded theories and research studies to find out ways in which organization members create and communicate meaning through symbols and stories, jokes and myths which create a living organization culture. Additionally, the organizations with the processes of reflectiveness and self-examination are able to develop and undergo a change in intellectually rigorous and emotionally thoughtful ways.

In short, reflective perspective has provided organizations with new ways of dealing with the issues and challenges of personal as well its own identity and image. Now leaders can think of their organizations’ existing design and structures and redefine them in order to react to external threats and challenges. Moreover, challenges of rigidity and arrogance in an organizational culture cannot be combated well by embracing this reflective perspective.

Specific Reflexive Theory: Critical Theory:

Critical theory can be considered as the practical theory based on a key theme of understanding, leading and demonstrating important conclusions for business models.

In this regard, the author worked to discover the way to liberate people from the domination i.e. from the consumerism and the working environment full of anxiety and stress for people working in the organization. It tends to provide only in terms of financial rewards and nothing else. It actually formed the basis of modern industrial structure. The other basic issue, which critical theory covers is the organization development by making it more democratic so that people, who are silent, can be heard (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2007).

A famous writer of critical theory Mats Alison has written that although CT is assumed to be a tangential and abstract but can reach in depth of those parts of organizational structure where other organizational theories cannot reach. He suggested numerous challenges to cover in the organization through the insight of critical theory (Jones &  Munro, 2005).  Some of the issues are as under

  1. The domination by use of language e.g. is there an inclination towards words which have domination by ‘male’ ideas? Does the language contain such words and definitions which mean challenge, rudeness, hardness, without emotions etc?
  2. Unclear communication: is there any use of words which means a lot but is less when closely monitored, like the words motivation, leadership, emancipation which may be in reality having less in meaning.
  3. A fixed role for people: whether the role of people is fixed and they rigidly follow it. Like a ‘manager’ always behave like that way.
  4. Power hierarchy: whether the senior and junior expressed by great differences in status in the organization and organizational structure really give top importance in ‘placing’ people at jobs.
  5. A preventive culture: an organizational culture which restricts discovery and provoking of issues in depth both in form of myths and stories deems to have put a barrier on the in-depth analyses of organizational issues.
  6. Technology Rule: is there any myth in an organization that the performance of an organization truly depends on technology and not through the members of the organization.
  7. Management is more concerned with the technical issues: is there a belief that the problems can be solved only through techniques without involving members of an organization.
  8. Giving less importance to ethics of human; is in the organization a trend to follow the ethics of business and market but giving less importance to human communication and honor of members of an organization.
  9. Political correctness: Is there an affinity to adopt the moral and ethical position about the issues which are based on ‘political correctness’ resultantly becomes unquestionable. It is actually an interesting challenge for an organization in the sense of concept about ‘political correctness’ can be helpful in playing a role to restrict hard questions like rising of performance (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson,2007).

Specific Reflective Theory: Ethnomethodology:

The study of ‘common sense’ methods is the heart of ethnomethodology. People apply these simple and ordinary ways to determine the reality of various things. In this perspective, when a researcher is going to study an organization, he first needs to study its use by its members, since organization members are able to conduct everyday business smoothly by becoming competent members of the organization, displaying, adhering and developing a sense of order (Jones, &  Munro, 2005).

This theory in the reflective organization perspective has shed light on common sense methods of solving problems, making decisions and finding facts in everyday life. This theory has also highlighted three important issues of membership, accountability, and rules of conduct.

The theory of ethnomethodology says that a specific group or community speaks a specific language such as managers speak management language, doctors speak medicine language and engineers speak engineering language. Moreover, in personal as well working life, people recount their actions. They tell stories about the happenings at different occasions, for instance, meeting proceedings become stories being told to non-participants. This theory also says that organizations most of the time rely upon common sense rules such as one person is allowed to speak while conducting conversation or meetings (Steve, 2003).

According to ethnomethodologist’s view, a conceptual world is created with the thinking, reasoning, and learning of people, which might be the subject matter or psychologists. On the other hand, practical activities, practical circumstance, and practical sociological reasoning make the study empirical and people learn a new phenomenon on their own by paying attention to the most commonplace activities of daily life. Moreover, the practical actions of the people are the social phenomena while the motives, intentions, and meanings are cognitive concepts. It also directs attention to visible and witnessable social practices which can be seen observed and witnessed and learned through studies (Steve, 2003).

Analysis of the case: Senor Payroll:

The senior payroll case has been analyzed by looking through both of the perspectives of reflexive and reflective organization theory.

Reflexive Perspective & Critical Theory:

When the Senor Payroll case is analyzed through the lens of reflexive perspective and critical theory, it becomes clear that downtown management exerts his authority and strict command & control system to makes rules for paying the workers at the plant. However, this authority has not been further distributed to the junior engineers enabling them to pay workers according to their needs. The centralized command system accompanied by bureaucratic organizational structure creates serious troubles for junior payroll engineers at the plant (Gary, 2010).  

Moreover, it is also apparent through a critical theory that organization at the downtown has not empowered the junior engineers to devise payroll rules in order to pay workers according to their needs. Additionally, the psychoanalysis of the reflexive perspective also highlights that downtown office only relies upon the information provided by the junior engineers and remains unable to understand the true feelings of workers whose livelihood depends on the wages. This ignorance of feeling does not give true realization to junior engineers as well as the downtown management about the about the magnitude of trouble caused by strict payroll rules with little flexibility. Moreover, there seems to lack of effective verbal communication gap between the plant and downtown office, which has resulted in greater trouble not for the workers, but also for the junior engineers and downtown office for the huge amount of paperwork, and hiring and firing activities.

Reflective Perspective and Ethnomethodology Theory: if we look at the case of Senor Payroll through the lens of reflective perspective and ethnomethodology, it is obvious that the downtown office maintains a rigid organization culture based on objectivism as well subjectivism. It has developed resulted from the oriented and aggressive approach to pay workers at Mexican Plant where junior clerks face huge trouble due to such rigid and aggressive approach. It is also apparent that downtown office ignores the people-oriented approach to manage work at the Mexican plant where workers face issues of timing of wages payment to them. Moreover, the organization has applied task-oriented culture which only seeks results and performance ignoring the problems and satisfaction levels of workers (BizFaceworld, 2009).  It is also evident that downtown management wrongly interoperates the messages about workers leaving, resigning, making a lame excuse of being sick and rejoining the workforce received from the junior clerks.  It remains unable to give meaning to the messages according to the reality prevailed at the plant and make rules according to the needs of the workers. Additionally, an organization at does not apply the common sense method to pay workers at the downtown rather pays according to its rigid rules which create a lot of trouble and loss in productivity at the plant. I think that the junior clerks might have not explained the whole stories of the issues of payroll at the plan to the main office due to which they might have relied upon only the messages received in the form of reports and payroll slips.

Evaluation of the selected Perspective:

Reflexive perspective and Critical Theory:

This perspective has provided managers and leaders on how to develop their organizations in a competitive environment. They have also been proposed to think beyond the traditional rules of scientific management and motivational theories for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Now they can achieve greater productivity by overcoming the rapidly growing issues of miscommunication, mismanagement of use of power and authority.  Additionally, organizations need to develop democratic organization designs to combat the issues of centralization and effective use of authority. It is also the demand of the present era that organizations take into account the true feeling of their employees to motivate them for achieving higher productivity.

Reflective Perspective and Ethnomethodology:

The reflective perspective of the organization has direct the attention of today’s managers and leaders to adopt subjectivism in order to get give meanings to reality and the greater focus on the social construct. This subjectivism has also asked the management to have a people-oriented approach in contrast to the task-oriented approach. Additionally, they are better equipped to interpret the reports, stories, and myths. Moreover, one must note that organization is not only composed of physical objects, but it also has a lot of social aspects such as stories, metaphors, and symbols which needed to be given meaning for developing the understanding of the organization (Daft, 2007).

Since ethnomethodology takes roots from phenomenology; common sense method has become part of everyday management activities. Managers and leaders develop an understanding of the complex situations from the micro-processes of everyday interactions from which common sense knowledge and understanding of the world is derived (BizFaceworld, 2009).

However, the today’s organizations,  which are facing cut-throat competition and huge external pressures to bring change in their rigid organizational culture and design in order to remain competitive, need to have to adopt the modernist perspective which emphasizes only the objects and external aspects of reality which have been missed in subjectivism and reflexive approaches of organization theory. Ironically, symbolic-interpretivist perspective still holds since reality is not independent of interpretation.

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