queering the organization

On April 30th 2009 Alan was examined on his PhD thesis, ‘queering the organization’. The examiners had already both independently decided that he be awarded the degree of PhD, but wished to give him the experience of defending his thesis. The examiners congratulated him ‘on producing a rigorous, well-structured thesis which is both self-reflexive and practical in its application to contemporary organisational practice. The examiners also wish to encourage you to make it more widely available in book form and in particular, papers addressing the aesthetics of submissive leadership and your critique of the ethics of Action Research practice’.

this is the abstract of Alan’s successful thesis:

Queering the organization is an action research inquiry into ‘healthy organizations’, leading to an understanding of how organizations are predicated on phallogocentric thinking, with power, shame and exclusion as powerful determinants. Through shameless exploration of my experiences I provoke dialogue on how sex and sexuality are played out in organizing.

I have developed new understandings through attending to conversations, using storytelling to capture otherwise unspeakable tales of organizing. I integrate these with my readings of queer theory, post-structural thinking and postfeminism to reach innovative understandings of organizing.
Modern organizations function in a way that reinforces gender differences. Management and leadership are customarily heterosexual and male. This is taken for granted and is undiscussable.

We assume that particular ways of thinking, – phallogocentric masculine ways – are normal. We prefer certainty, energy, activity and measurement. We cannot tolerate doubt and unknowing. But life is not knowable, and people get anxious. When anxious, people seek certainty in someone who will tell them what to do, and what to think. We think of leaders and managers as the ones who know, who can relieve our anxiety by telling us what to do.

Dominance in BDSM is a useful metaphor for understanding what goes on at work. As dominance and submission (its corollary) are enacted in the workplace, then men are submitting to other men. Some men have power over other men, which is intolerable for most men, and thus strong masculinity and heterosexual identity are built up in order to protect subordinates from feeling shame. Homophobia becomes institutionalised. Against this men need to learn to accept their dependence and submission.

Aesthetics, nomadic ethics, beauty and dominance/submission help us understand our behaviour and guide male thinking to new understandings of organizing, and the workplace. The thesis concludes with suggestions for revisioning leadership and organizing, with practical implications for organizations.