Behind the scenes, or at least behind your back: hidden conflict during organizational change
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Throughout extant literature, there is a great deal of research on organizational change and organizational conflict; however, the two have rarely been studied together. Even less frequently studied is the existence and impact of hidden conflict during an organizational change. This study seeks to explore the meeting of these bodies of literature through the use of qualitative methods. Fifteen interviews were triangulated with artifact data and participant observation to examine hidden conflict during an organizational change in a student organization of a large, southern university. The organization studied had a long history of grassroots student leadership. However, per a directive of university administration, this pattern shifted. In order to comply with the new directive, the student leadership Council of the organization begrudgingly changed their structure. Many organizational members challenged the process taken to implement this change, not only because of the structural alteration it represented, but also for the lack of student input in developing the change plans. This study revealed that throughout the change process, organizational members used hidden conflict strategies extensively. These individuals aimed their hidden conflict behaviors at other organizational members in protest of others’ opinions of the change initiative. The use of hidden conflict behaviors had a significant impact on the change process and the efficacy of the organization as a whole. Most of the hidden conflict behaviors displayed are already identified in extant literature; however, this study also revealed new expressions of hidden conflict. In addition, this research explored the implications of emotion during an organizational change and the link between hidden conflict and resistance.
Siepel, Jennifer Lynn (2008). Behind the scenes, or at least behind your back: hidden conflict during organizational change. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from