Indignation within organizations

16 Jun

Yesterday I was inspired by some reading delivered to my desktop. Today I thought about what would motivate me to do more research, other than say, a sense of duty. Well for me, motivation is often in the joy of having a bit of fun. One of my staff sent me an amusing article title today, which has been submitted into our electronic reserve. So today I am sharing with you my musings after reading:

David Sims, 2005, “You bastard: a narrative exploration of the experience of indignation within organizations“, Organization Studies, 26(11) pp.1625-1640,

It’s not as amusing as the title promises, but it’s interesting. Covers use of indignation to instill certainty in a changing world, the smugness of feeling you are right or superior and admits that some are drawn to it. Also looks at how we hide these good feelings by adding “a tone of exasperation which suggests that everything has been done to see the other point of view, but in the end there was simply not enough good in that other view” (p.1638) [ouch – I did that one today!]

For an actual summary of the article see Miss Conduct’s blog. I’m going to explore my own reactions.

Lately a few of our #blogeverydayinjune posts have discussed dealing with opposing ideas in the world of librarianship. True to our stereotype we have felt that politeness might be a little more welcome than diverse opinions. This is not just in the library world as “with exceptions … negative emotions do not figure very largely in organizational studies” (p.1629). This is quite interesting, as any supervisor I have ever spoken to talks largely about their ‘difficult’ staff, or their concern about their own strong reactions to ‘difficult’ situations. I haven’t been to a management course yet that hasn’t taken the chance to explain to the participants that under stress ‘your dominant side’ may emerge [Welcome to the Dark side Luke]. Yet we don’t like to talk about it perhaps in our research?

A Public Librarian really got me thinking about my own style at the moment. As has this article. I think I’m really the type to name the elephant in the room, canvas all options out loud, ask direct questions. That’s fine with a group of people who also enjoy this style of communication, however I’m learning that it can also cause some concerns. Others may see me very differently, as closing down expression of alternate opinions through my loud clear statements or dismissive body language. I’ve also always known that I am uncomfortable with strong negative emotions, so I may close down different opinions when such emotions are shown, in an attempt to keep the emotional temperature of a group even.

So I am looking for new techniques to try that can keep discussions open [very important to me], with a multiplicity of opinions heard, without strong negative emotions emerging as people feel unheard or perhaps even threatened. Hmm. Now I look at that statement I want a lot from one paper don’t I! Perhaps some more reading is required.

Tomorrow I’m off to continue my reading with:
P. Myers, 2007, “Sexed up intelligence or irresponsible reporting? The interplay of virtual communication and emotion in dispute sensemaking”, Human Relations, April 1, 2007; 60(4): 609 – 636.

I’m not sure if I am more amused by the idea of idea of reading from a magazine called Human Relations, or whether I want to find out how to use the word “sensemaking” in my next Executive meeting.


5 Responses to “Indignation within organizations”

  1. Tony June 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Ruth, have you read Tricky People by Andrew Fuller? A colleague put me onto it. Fascinating and fun. Part of it is realising what you can learn from “difficult” people.

    • Ruth Baxter June 17, 2010 at 1:31 am #

      Ooh good tip for my reading on my desk pile, thanks Tony. I do actually enjoy learning from watching others. I think I was most surprised by the obvious issues about myself I learnt from that article – that ouch moment where I realised I had thought I was being even handed, but there is an element of “See I have been reasonable so indignation is justified”.

  2. liberrydwarf June 17, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Truth now Ruth: have you just been putting rude words into databases to find professional readings that sound fun? 😉

    • Ruth Baxter June 17, 2010 at 10:27 am #

      No – I really got this pointed out to me. However yours is such a good idea. May try that next week. It can be my next database demonstration tip …


  1. Day 16 – starting the downhill stretch | Libraries Interact - June 17, 2010

    […] Creative Circ bounces some thoughts off an article about indignation in organisations; […]

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