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Spiritual labor in Alcoholics Anonymous: A model of spiritual discourse in organizations
Presented at 77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Atlanta, GA
August 8, 2017
by Carrie M Duncan

Abstract: This paper builds on McGuire’s (2010) study of spiritual labor in parochial boarding schools. I transport the concept of spiritual labor to the study of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), an informal, peer-led and managed organization whose mission is to “carry the message of recovery to the alcoholic who still suffers.” McGuire finds that spiritual labor often leads to a sense of hypocrisy and dissonance, which can be exacerbated by low identification with the organization. I address two research questions: Is there evidence of spiritual labor in AA? If so, to what extent do members experience “dissonance and a sense of hypocrisy”? I explore these questions with a reading of A.A. literature, the A.A. Grapevine, and the A.A. Grapevine discussion forum. For members of A.A. spirituality is a foundational part of recovery. Stigma management aids entry into the organization. The ability of new members to incorporate AA’s spiritual discourse into their personal narratives is a key part of the identification process as well as a part of the reshaping of member identity. Deployment of discursive norms, including spiritual discourse, is one way that members are socialized into the organization. I integrate these findings to develop a framework for understanding the process of stigma management, identification, socialization, and spiritual labor in AA. This model may be used to understand how spiritual discourse facilitates organizational identification.

Key words: spiritual labor, stigma management, organizational identification, organizational discourse

(Inter)subjectivity in the Research Pair
Presented at EGOS in Copenhagen, Denmark
July 8, 2017
by Carrie M Duncan and Sara RSTA Elias

Abstract: We draw on our experiences in one organizational study to explore the reflexive process of writing fieldnotes. Fieldnotes developed individually, and shared between researchers, can become the basis of reflexive dialogue to enhance researchers’ intersubjective understanding of the field. Articulating countertransference, a technique borrowed from psychoanalysis, informs our efforts to raise awareness of the unconscious dimensions of field experiences. Bridging the literatures on reflexivity, intersubjectivity, and psychoanalysis, we develop a four-dimension method of writing and analyzing fieldnotes—observing, capturing the story, articulating countertransference, and developing interpretations. This unique method focuses on the hidden emotions shaping the joint construction of research accounts.

Keywords: countertransference, fieldnotes, intersubjectivity, qualitative research, radical reflexivity

Necessary evils and transcendent virtues: The dialectics of leadership and followership in “good” organizations
Presented at the 33rd EGOS Colloquium, Copenhagen, Denmark
July 6, 2017
by Carrie M Duncan and Seth Allcorn

Abstract: Organizations are split along opposing dimensions – work/play, important/trivial, good/bad. “Badness” is split off individually and collectively to preserve the organizational ideal. Reintegrating split off thoughts, wishes, perceptions, and emotions into the collective image of organizational life is deeply resisted by organizational members, leaders, and consultants. Yet, integration of good and bad images and experiences of collective life is an integral part of successful and positive change in organizations. Resisting the “bad” organization paradoxically increases the potential for the dark forces of organizational life to surface in enactments that range from poor performance to organizational evil. This paper explores the “dark side of the good organization” as a means of informing what it means to consult to and lead change in organizations. We seek to answer the question “Why do the dark forces always seem to win out?” by exploring three organizational dialectics: leader, leader-follower, and organizational.

Key words: organizational dialectics, dark forces, leadership, organizational culture, organizational change

Leadership, Modes of Experience, and Frontline Turnover
Presented at the PMRC in Washington, DC
June 10, 2017
by Carrie M. Duncan

Abstract: This paper draws on a qualitative study of a substance abuse treatment organization to develop a model of leadership that has the potential to reduce frontline turnover. Frontline workers play a critical role in delivering direct services in substance abuse treatment organizations. They also have the highest rates of turnover in the healthcare sector. The relational processes between leaders, managers, and frontline workers are explored and a psychosocial framework – the tripartite model of organization – is applied to understand the experiences of frontline substance abuse treatment workers and to explain frontline turnover. Findings demonstrate the potential of the psychodynamic concepts of “holding environment” and “containment” in leadership practice for increasing organizational commitment and reducing turnover among frontline service workers. Practical strategies for reducing turnover are suggested for leaders and public managers.

Key words: substance abuse treatment, turnover, leadership, modes of experiencing, tripartite model of organization, relational theories