35th EGOS Colloquium
Enlightening the Future:
The Challenge for Organizations
University of Edinburgh Business School
July 46, 2019
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
35th EGOS Colloquium
July 46, 2019
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
At the time where democracies seem threatened, and many institutions are in turmoil, collegiality might be a way to restore
faith in our political and economic institutions. As it collegiality places emphasis on ethics, personal responsibility, and
commonly shared goals, it may counterbalance the recent shift towards populism, protectionism and exclusion.
Collegiality was once a foundation of many successful organizational forms. The professions, medieval universities and early models of parliamentary government were, historically, formed as collegial social structures premised on trust, equality and the pursuit of ethically informed mutual interest. Max Weber (1947) identified collegiality as a model of social governance that was exemplified by the pro-ethical nature of professional organizations and which stood in sharp contrast to the pro-materialist nature of bureaucratic organizations. Following Weber, Waters (1989) described four fundamental characteristics of collegial organizations; (1) participants possess a high degree of expertise, (2) a high degree of specialization (3) a high degree of equality, and (4) make decisions by consensus. These characteristics underpin key social structures and emerged in the medieval era – universities, religious collectives, guilds and professions - and which, largely because of these founding principles, persist today albeit in a much weaker form of collegiality.
Modern collegiality is understood as a relationship amongst people who share a distinctive set of practices, each of which are premised on Weber’s early definition of the term. These practices include a rotating leadership in which leaders are elected according to the principle of primus inter pares or “first among equals”. The term acknowledges the assumed equality of all members of the group, but with the additional respect afforded to senior members of the group (elders) based on their experience. It also includes the coexistence of freedom (autonomy) and duty (good citizenship) with respect to the allocation and acceptance of work.
The practices of collegiality also include processes and procedures based on codes of conduct of acceptable behaviour, all of which take seriously the voice of the collective or community and the importance of consensus in decision making. Collegiality assumes the functioning of a collegium, i.e. colleagues who can listen and talk to each other (Sahlin & Eriksson-Zetterquist, 2016). Finally, collegiality is based on trust and is dedicated to the continuous development of commonly shared goals (Bennett, 1998). Such trust, knowledge and continuous dialogue are based on upholding a common set of norms, goals and objectives all of which must be maintained through the continuous and active engagement of colleagues.
Despite these ideals, collegiality seems to be a vanishing ideal. A litany of studies demonstrates that professional firms are increasingly organized around the bureaucratic principles of modern corporations (Scott, 2000; Empson et al., 2013) and individual professionals are increasingly subject to pressures of rational efficiency promoted by the state (Evetts, 2009). Colleges and universities, similarly, have adopted bureaucratic forms of governance which threaten the principles of collegiality.
Our goal for this subtheme is to elaborate collegiality as an organizational construct and to stimulate an interest in further empirical exploration of collegiality in organizations. Specifically, we want to encourage submissions that explore and elaborate the following:
Is the assumption of eroding collegiality accurate? Recent work has challenged the assumption of the dominance of rational forms of organizing, noting the resurgence of populism, craft modes of production and “re-enchanted” modes of organizing (Suddaby et al., 2017). Is there empirical evidence of the resurgence of collegial forms of organization?
How does collegiality interact with other forms of governance? Collegiality can be an efficient and practical form of governance, but it rarely works in isolation; usually it co-exists with other modes of governance that may supplement, challenge, transform, pervert or undermine other modes. What is happening at the interface between collegiality and other models of governance?
Can collegiality be reconciled with the pressure to compete? This question is particularly valid in the context of professional service firms organized around the partnership model (law, accountancy firms, architecture or consulting firms). Also, in the case of elite professions such as doctors and lawyers, the question of tensions between collegiality and competition becomes particularly pertinent.
How can we study and understand collegiality as an idea that travels from settings where it is perceived as “natural” into contexts where it challenges current organizing/governing models? And what is the role of professions in this process? (Pallas et al., 2016).
Can collegiality be taught? Many leadership-training courses devote little time and to discussing, maintaining and supporting collegiality, focusing instead on bureaucratic and management ideals. Can collegiality in the professional setting be taught in the same way as ethical professional conduct is? What are the social and symbolic practices of collegiality (Siebert et al., 2017)?
What are the various ways in which collegiality has been perverted, hollowed out or contrived? In some professional service firms, collegiality has taken on a form of custodial management used by professionals to exercise control over each other (Freidson, 1994; Kirkpatrick et al., 2005).