Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Culture at the Edge: an Exploration of Cultural Adaptation and Sense-Making Across Workgroup Boundaries in Complex Organizations

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posted on 2022-07-28, 04:08 authored by Harmer, Brian Martin

The nature and conduct of relationships between functionally specialised workgroups in complex organization is explored in this dissertation. Interviews with twenty eight individuals and two entire workgroups from four large organizations are used as the basis for an experiential phenomenological study that seeks to understand the essences of the lived experience of being a member of such a workgroup. The situated outcomes of the phenomenological study are scrutinised in the light of the literatures of organizational theory, organizational communication theory, and social identity theory. These literatures are used as lenses to explore the possibility that problematic dimensions of intergroup relations might be diminished by the deployment of technology mediated communication channels between the groups concerned. The research finds that, with few exceptions, workgroup membership is a strong part of the individual's sense of social identity. This is consistent with the key elements of social identification theory and self-categorization theory. It also finds that the construction of stereotypes creating mutually oppositional beliefs of positive distinctiveness is unavoidable. Further, the research tends to confirm that individuals in workgroups believe that they are performing their allotted tasks as well as possible. Such beliefs are not necessarily consistent with the expectations of management, but they address issues related own self image and perceived role-performance. Although perceived issues of media richness associated with presently available technologies tend to undermine perceptions of technological solutions in the participant organizations, the research points to useful future opportunities for more effective selection and deployment of appropriate technologies as a basis for the conduct and management of intergroup relationships.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Yoong, Pak; Corbitt, Brian