Subgroups, conflict, and leadership in higher education information technology : an interpretative phenomenological analysis exploration [thesis]

Jennifer Rae Kusse
Within organizations, groups often create an "us" versus "them" stance, which leads to conflict. Subgroups are smaller units within an organizational department and are based on similar attributes. This study describes and examines Chief Information Officers' (CIOs') experiences of interactions among their Information Technology (IT) subgroups and how differing subgroup perspectives may have created conflict that resulted in team ineffectiveness and inefficiency for the organization. Group
more » ... line Theory offers a constructive lens through which to view this research relating to the creation of subgroups and the subsequent conflict. Four current higher education CIOs were recruited for this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and a metaphorical drawing was collected from the participants and used for data analysis. Seven significant themes were identified from the analysis. These themes were (1) Communication; (2) Leadership; (3) Relationship Building; (4) Emotions; (5) Training; (6) Groups and Teamwork; and (7) Process. From these themes, five key findings were identified. First, all seven significant themes interconnect with each other revealing a very complex inter-relatedness. Second, conflict can be assessed by identifying low-and high-conflict traits. These traits form a spectrum of highconflict traits on one side, and low-conflict traits on the other. Third, with ineffective leadership-that is, when high-conflict traits are promoted and low-conflict traits are suppressed-the team will likely spiral into increasingly poor productivity. Fourth, leaders who attack the issue of conflict by applying their skills to promote low-conflict traits among their team members and to minimize high-conflict traits will be rewarded with a highly productive and effective team. Fifth, IT subgroup conflict was not of concern to the participants, however, interdepartmental conflict and individual-to-individual conflict were perceived to be important issues. According to the described experiences, data analysis, and literature application, the act of 3 applying good leadership practice-that is, reducing high-conflict traits and increasing lowconflict traits-is how the participants of this study mitigated conflict in their own organizations. Two overall conclusions can be noted. First is the importance of reducing the hero culture, and second is the beneficial impact of a teamwork culture.
doi:10.17760/d20382036 fatcat:uyryrcibezbrzikfkr2u2xqorq