An Analysis of the Social Meanings of Conflict in Nonprofit Organizations

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This ethnographic study illustrates how staff and management’s sensemaking in conflict in a clerical unit in a Scandinavian nonprofit organization is shaped by institutionalized meanings. Staff and management draw on three institutionalized frameworks when making sense of conflict: The defective personality framework, the diversity framework, and the status inequality framework. Similarly to the organization’s practice of framing “conflicts” as “frictions,” the diversity framework is guided by organizational ideology of egalitarianism and similar to the defective personality framework it emphasises nonconfrontation as a main strategy in processes of conflict management. Despite the organization’s strong commitment to egalitarianism, the clerical workers view status inequality as the origin of many conflicts and they thereby draw from the same institutionalized meanings of political economy of distributional conflicts that the organization was founded to change. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)923-941
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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