Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Trena Paulus

Committee Members

John Peters, Mary Ziegler, John Haas


Positioning theory has yet to fully cross over as an analytical tool for examining conflict in business and industry. The manner in which positioning theory explains human interactions (specifically conflicts) could prove to be beneficial to the field of Organizational Development (OD). This study uses critical events narrative analysis to examine the stories of five supervising managers at a large corporate organization who were dealing with conflict caused by a reorganization. Interview data was collected and analyzed to identify the managers’ critical events, as well as primary issues, main characters, and common conflict themes. The data was then analyzed using a framework rooted in positioning theory to determine participants’ perspectives regarding conflict. Positions, speech acts, and storylines for each participant were identified. There were four storylines relating to conflict for those who either supported or were against the centralization: Management as Conscientious Business Leaders, Management as Thoughtless, Employees as Troublemakers, and Supervisors versus Subordinates. Additionally, there were two storylines relating to the conflict theme of Operating in New Roles: Supervisors versus Subordinates and Site versus Corporate. The study also proves useful in identifying a new indicator of polarized cultures. As a result, the study provides greater insight into how positioning theory can be an effective medium for analyzing the nature of conflicts in the corporate setting.

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