Purpose – In an effort to better understand the political dimensions of organizational learning, this paper aims to examine learning processes in an organizational context – namely renegotiation of pay and performance management arrangements – where the interests of organizational members are threatened. Design/methodology/approach – Data were derived from two longitudinal case studies based in Australian companies, where the pay and performance management system was undergoing change. Findings – Learning from the past played a significant role in renegotiations at the two case study sites, with management treading a fine line between supporting learning likely to serve the organization's commercial interests, while dampening down politically charged learning, which could undermine those same commercial interests. Indeed, the data highlight the importance of “interests”, and suggest that a great deal of so‐called “organizational” learning may be more accurately described as “shared‐interest‐group” learning. Research limitations/implications – A limit of the data reported here is that they are derived from only one employee relations' context (Australia) and two companies. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that there would be value in further investigation of organizational learning in politically charged employee relations contexts. Practical implications – More systematic attention to learning in politically charged employee relations situations, like the ones described here, could help organizations improve the ways they manage change (rather than approaching contentious change in an ad hoc way, and possibly repeating previous mistakes). Originality/value – Despite acknowledgement over more than a decade of the political dimensions of organizational learning, the focus has largely been on political concomitants of learning associated with mainstream activities. Very few empirical studies have considered organizational learning in politically charged employee relations contexts, and none in the specific context of pay and performance management.
The Learning Organization – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 24, 2011
Keywords: Workplace training; Performance related pay; Conflict; Performance management; Organizational politics; Australia
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