Unplanned conversations at work




Mandhana, Dron Manojkumar

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This dissertation conceptualizes formal organizing as an enacted capability that is constituted in everyday communication practices bound by time and space. Using a practice perspective, I argue that unplanned conversations are a constituent feature of organizing and a primary mover in organizing process. As part of the dissertation, I have developed a multi-level theoretical framework that provides insights about the factors that influence the frequency of unplanned conversations at work. In Chapter I, previous work on unplanned conversations from multiple disciplines (e.g., communication, design) is reviewed to define unplanned conversations, explicate their characteristics, and consider them as the unit of analysis. Following this discussion, I apply a practice perspective to explain how unplanned conversations produce and re-produce organizational structures, as well as the recursive relationship between structure and unplanned conversations. Finally, I discuss various ways to measure and operationalize unplanned conversations. Chapter II unpacks the effects of individual, team, and organizational level factors on the frequency of unplanned conversations. A two-mode data analytic strategy is presented to explore the dualistic relationship between the types of unplanned conversations and the organizational spaces they create. Then, the influence of unplanned conversations on organizational outcomes is discussed. Throughout the chapter, relevant research questions, hypotheses, and theoretical propositions are offered. Chapter III addresses the methodological challenges associated with capturing and measuring unplanned conversations. To overcome the methodological challenges, I developed and tested a multi-methodological approach to studying unplanned conversations. Data was collected using structured observations, spot sampling, online survey questionnaires and experience sampling from N = 61 employees over a four-week period. Finally, I report on the varied statistical methods used to explore the relationships described in Chapter II. The findings in Chapter IV provide strong support for the relationship between organizational context and the frequency of unplanned conversations. Correspondence analysis results provide strong support for the dualistic relationship between types of conversations and spaces. Taken together, the dissertation helps us more fully understand how unplanned conversations enable and constrain organizational communication processes. Chapter V concludes with a discussion of the results, limitations, an agenda for future research, and the theoretical and practical implications of the dissertation.


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