Too smart to participate? Rational reasons for employees' non-participation in action research
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSystemic Practice and Action Research. 2020, 33 (6), 625-638. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-020-09538-5
Action research literature promotes broad participation in order to gain better insights into prevailing issues and cope with both present and future challenges in organizations. For good reasons, action researchers view participation as desirable and even necessary. However, emphasizing participation also creates a blind spot: researchers tend to assume that employees are willing or even eager to take part in organizational change projects. A group of action researchers involved in a large-scale organizational development project in a Norwegian public organization initially also had this optimistic assumption. Over time, they realized that many employees were reluctant to participate and often kept silent, so they conducted follow-up research to explore the reasons for employees’ non-participation. The findings show that the employees had rational reasons not to participate, and that employee participation should not be taken for granted. The paper outlines eight different rationales for non-participation, and discusses implications for action research.