BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    How senior leaders make sense of organisational politics

    Ward, Adrian (2018) How senior leaders make sense of organisational politics. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Final Thesis post viva amends Dec 18.pdf - Full Version

    Download (2MB) | Preview


    Despite much scholarly endeavour in recent decades, understanding of organisational politics is still limited. Analysis of the research literature reveals how personal engagement in political activity presents both threat and opportunity for those in leadership roles. That so little is known about how leaders handle such ambivalence has become a growing source of dissatisfaction with contemporary writers highlighting gaps in understanding and linking this to the dominance of survey-based research. The dearth of richer interpretations of the complexity presented by active involvement in such a controversial arena has led to a call for an increase in sound qualitative investigation. This study responds by examining leaders’ sensemaking of the dilemmas associated with their own lived experience of organisational politics. Interviews with 28 senior leaders used an active approach to confronting participants with contradictions between their definitions of organisational politics and accounts of their own political behaviour. Using a combination of thematic and dialogic narrative analysis, the findings demonstrate first that most leaders drew upon two specific sensemaking processes and a mix of four competing narratives to come to terms with their involvement. Secondly, the research suggests that leaders can resolve ambivalence and contradiction through a belief in their capacity to act pragmatically in the political arena but that, if they experience it as a phenomenon to be endured and over which they have little control, their position may be undermined. Such findings support the contribution of a sensemaking approach to organisational politics by highlighting the importance of both identity and enactment in responding to the dilemmas presented by participation in political activity.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 13 May 2019 11:41
    Last Modified: 01 Mar 2021 11:56


    Activity Overview

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item