Decision making in workplace meetings

Helena Kangasharju

Helsinki School of Economics, Finland

TP164: Forms of social organization in meeting talk

Decision making in organizations is a phenomenon that has been studied a lot in many disciplines. Still, micro level analyses of authentic real-time decision making situations are rather few. This is understandable, because the decision making process easily escapes the researcher. For example, decision making processes tend to be long and divided in several phases which makes it difficult catch the process for analysis. Decisions are also made in so many different ways and in so many different situations that it is often difficult to say whether a decision was made or not. In business corporations, in particular, access to authentic decision making situations may be problematic because of the delicacy and secretess of the process.

Still, certain aspects of the decision making process are usefully studied through micro analysis. The paper discusses some sequential practices used in the decision making phase which can be called the negotiation sequence, in which proposals are made and responded to. The data comes from in-house meetings of two multinational business corporations and from committee meetings in public sector.

The focus of the analysis is on the interaction between the managers or the chairpersons and the other participants. For example, the subordinates may use specific practices when trying to influence the proposals for decision made by the manager. Such practices include, for example, expressions such as I just thought that which mitigate the standpoint presented and render the primary deciding role to the manager. On the other hand, the managers may, in spite of their seemingly “participation encouraging” actions (e.g. questions) steer the decision making process to a certain direction by using delicate practices (e.g., pauses in strategic locations). Nevertheless, the examples also clearly show the reciprocal nature of the decision making process: typically, a decision is a common achievement of the parties.

Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Forms of social organization in meeting talk
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 06