Warriors versus experts : managing conflict between professional groups for US Army mental healthcare
Author(s)DiBenigno, Julia Marie
Managing conflict between professional groups for US Army mental healthcare
Sloan School of Management.
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Organizational life is rife with conflict between groups with different interests who pursue different goals. Integrative mechanisms to promote goal alignment do not always work, particularly when conflicts involve professional groups with strong commitments to their professional identities and perspectives. I draw on data from a 30-month comparative ethnographic field study of conflict between US Army commanders privileging their professional group's goal of fielding a mission-ready unit and mental health providers privileging their professional group's goal of providing rehabilitative mental healthcare to active-duty soldiers suffering from conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All providers and commanders faced longstanding conflict related to their professional group differences in goals, identities, and perspectives, and all had access to a host of integrative mechanisms to overcome these differences. Yet, only those associated with two of the four combat brigades on the US Army post featured in this dissertation regularly handled these conflicts by co-constructing integrative solutions that accomplished both professional groups' goals and the organization's overarching goal to have both mentally healthy and mission-ready soldiers. I find that an organizational structure that enables what I call "anchored personalization" can help different professional groups overcome identity conflict and entrenchment in their home group's perspective to align their goals, without becoming coopted by the other group's perspective from personalized contact with the other group. Anchored personalization resulted from an organizational structure that provided a long-term personal connection with specific members of the other group, while anchoring group members in their home group identity from working surrounded by their fellow group members. Anchored personalization reduced longstanding identity conflict between groups by broadening and expanding each group's professional identity to incorporate elements of the other group's perspective, enabling what I call "anchored perspective-taking." Anchored perspective-taking practices led to the co-construction of integrative solutions to conflicts that aligned seemingly incompatible group goals to achieve the organization's superordinate goal. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of managing goal and identity conflict between professional groups in organizations and to our understanding of the dark side of personalization without anchoring.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2016.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 114-123).
DepartmentSloan School of Management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.