Synoptic Details of the Research Article under Analysis. 2
Critique of Research Design. 6
Critique of the Qualitative Methodology and Data Analysis. 9
Comparison with Quantitative Research by Other Researchers. 11
The aim of this paper is to provide critical analysis of the research article by Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) titled “‘My Brilliant Career’? New Organizational Forms and Changing Managerial Careers in Japan, the UK, and the USA”. The two research questions that the paper sets out to answer are: (a) how have managerial careers changed in terms of job security and career progression in modern work organizations in Japan, UK, and the USA; and (b) what are the managers’ personal perceptions of the career changes that they have experienced in these organizations? A qualitative methodology was employed in this study, whereby formal and informal, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior and middle human resources managers working in large, U.S., UK, and Japanese firms. These interviews were interpreted to provide answers to the aforementioned research questions.
In this critical analysis, four main issues are addressed. First, a critique of the research design and methodology used in the research article is presented. Secondly, the paper explains what qualitative research is in relation to the research design provided by the article in order to elaborate on the kind of knowledge it can deliver. Thirdly, the paper critically assesses the data provided in the article in terms of how it can be used to evaluate and/or build theory. Lastly, the paper compares the approach used in the article with the use of quantitative research on a related by other researchers.
Synoptic Details of the Research Article under Analysis
Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) begin their research project by identifying the research problem. They observe that according to anecdotal evidence, the “old”, traditional management career has come to an end (Hassard, Morris & McCann, 2012). Since this statement is anchored on anecdotal evidence, there is a need to clarify the reality it portends for managers working in large contemporary organizations in various sectors in Japan, UK, and the USA. To start with, the authors review the literature on the emergence of the so-called “new organizational forms” as well as the notion of “new career”. The literature on both concepts is reviewed against the backdrop of the rise of organizational change and investor capitalism. In the main body, the research paper presents findings obtained from a comparative study of the career experiences of managers working in various modern companies in the USA, Japan, and the UK. In the final section, the paper provides a discussion on the implications of the research data.
In terms of methodology, the research work for this paper is anchored on an ongoing study whose objective is to determine how organizational forms in mature economies have been changing since the start of the twenty-first century and the impact of this change on managerial careers. This ongoing research has already provided documentation on the changing managers’ experiences in large organizations in Japan, the USA, and UK. The objective has been to determine the level of interdependence between organizational change and managerial careers based on the hypothesized shift from managerial capitalism to investor capitalism.
The first phase of the investigation on which the present study is based was carried out between 2002 and 2005. The second phase was carried out between 2006 and 2010, while the current phase, which commenced in 2010, is ongoing. The present paper focuses exclusively on the evidence that was obtained from the first two research phases, during which data was gathered from 259 respondents. To gather this data, formal interviews were conducted with supervisors, managers, and executives from 26 public organizations and corporations. Additionally, informal interviews, communications, and discussions were conducted with managers from the sample organizations outside of their respective workplaces. Similar informal consultations were extended to bring in professionals with experience on issues relating to managerial careers as well as former managers of the sample organizations. Moreover, from each of the three countries, the researchers also sought the views of academic analysts and researchers working in this field of study. The total number of formal interviews conducted was 37 in Japan, 62 in the UK, and 43 in the USA. Two additional sources of data were also relied on: economic data and relevant documentary evidence for each organization and personal observations on organizational change during field investigations in each of the three countries.
Executives were interviewed because of the need to obtain information on new organizational forms and the resulting changes in career, HR, and managerial practices. On the other hand, senior HR managers were interviewed because they were well-positioned to provide information on organizational change and its impact on the careers of middle managers as well as expectations and experiences. Some of the interviews with managers were held outside of the organizations they work for because it was felt that this would enable them to give informal, personal information freely and candidly.
Based on this research data obtained using the methodology, the paper makes propositions about the current instability being experienced in large organizations operating in the new world of investor capitalism, the changes that are occurring in managerial careers because of this organizational instability, and the way in which managerial careers are being developed in this context. Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) conclude that three developments have emerged as far as the philosophy of managerial careers in the large organization’s understudy is concerned. First, the relationship between the employer and the employee is no longer anchored on long-term prospects. Secondly, career progression has become increasingly literal. Thirdly, individuals and organizations are embroiled in a struggle to understand the trajectory of the newly emerging career trends.
The findings of the study showed that all the organizations investigated exhibited the emergence of new organizational practices, which include delayering, downsizing, outsourcing, and divestment. However, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) questioned the rationale for the argument that these changes constitute the emergence of “neo-bureaucratic” forms of structure. Nevertheless, they supported the view that these changes have far-reaching implications for the work roles, career prospects, and job security of managers.
The organizational changes were found to have diminished career prospects for middle managers, a problem that organizations are trying to mitigate by “developing” the managers laterally. This situation has negative implications for employee commitment, manager motivation, and organizational loyalty. Managers remain resentful of the diminishing career prospects but have largely accepted them as an integral part of emerging trends in contemporary capitalism. However, a few young managers consider delayering an opportunity for quick career progression. Similarly, another small group is opposed to career progression under the current situation because they perceive it as a potential cause of increased levels of stress and work-life imbalance.
Lastly, the paper concludes that the impacts of organizational change on managerial careers at the start of the twenty-first century are threefold. Firstly, career stagnation has occurred because of the changing the structure of managerial roles. Secondly, the emerging “flatter” and “leaner” corporations have led to a reduction in traditional career opportunities for middle managers, leading to a decline in the culture of job security. Lastly, changes to organizational forms and managerial careers are emerging as international phenomena.
Critique of Research Design
A major strength of the study is that the research design has been clearly identified. The paper uses a non-experimental, descriptive research design, which involves a comparison of sample public- and private-sector organizations from three countries: the USA, Japan, and the UK. In this research design, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) seek to describe what is already in existence, discover new meaning, and determine the relationship between specific variables. The success of the research design is demonstrated by its outcomes, which in this case take two forms: tentative propositions and possible hypotheses for use in future research.
The credibility and integrity of the research design have been taken care of well in this study. Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) have gone into details regarding the ongoing research project that formed the basis for the present study. By naming the sponsors of the project during various phases, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) greatly enhance the credibility of the research design. However, the researchers did not conduct a pilot study, and this may have affected the integrity of the study, albeit to a small extent. A pilot study gives the research an opportunity to adjust definitions, change the measuring instrument, alter the existing sampling strategy, and even refine the research question. Nevertheless, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) make up for this shortcoming by outlining in easy-to-follow, logical steps of how the data was collected.
To determine the appropriateness of the research design used in the research paper, it would be imperative to focus on the philosophical origins of the issue under study. If such an issue was addressed in the paper as part of the explanation on research design, it would have shed a lot of light on the authors’ beliefs about knowledge and ways of developing it. In the meantime, one can only rely on presuppositions relating to the association between qualitative study and the interpretive worldview. In this worldview, multiple truths are said to exist, meaning that no attempts are made to seek generalizations. For this study, contrary to the dictum of multiple world views, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) have made an attempt to make generalizations in regards to the emergence of organizational change and consequent career instability and job insecurity for middle managers. The other element is context, whereby the social circumstances where the study is taking place are of utmost relevance. For this study, the context is the first decade of the twenty-first century. Moreover, an inductive approach has been used, something that makes the research design fit well in the category of qualitative research.
Other elements of the qualitative approach that manifest themselves in the research design include the relationship between researchers and participants, choice of sample, data collection, data analysis, and research rigor. The researchers endeavored to integrate themselves into the worlds of the participants through formal and informal interviews conducted in both workplace settings and far-off locations away from the participants’ workplaces. In qualitative research, the sample normally comprises of a small number of respondents, whose willingness to describe the experiences under investigation should not be in doubt. This is precisely what is demonstrated in this study; the researchers gathered their data from 259 respondents representing 26 corporations from three countries. This number of respondents is quite small considering that it is being relied on to define trends in organizational change as well as its implications for middle managers’ job security and career instability in major sectors of three of the world’s largest economies. In terms of data collection, the techniques used to fit the bill for qualitative research because they include interviewing, the examination of documents and other publications, as well as participant observation of organization during the duration of the regular field investigations. These are precisely the data collection techniques that researchers using the qualitative approaches are required to use.
Other important elements of research design include sampling, ethical considerations, and trustworthiness. In the qualitative method, researchers are supposed to recruit participants based on their experience of or exposure to the phenomenon under study. In the present study, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) recruited executives, HR managers, middle managers, former managers, and supervisors because they had the requisite exposure to issues of organizational change and its consequent impact on managerial careers. This means that the data that was obtained by interviewing these respondents could be relied on to make conclusions about the phenomena under study. It is also common for qualitative researchers to select samples based on themes that emerge out of data analysis. Using these themes, the researcher can develop a theory. This approach, which is referred to as theoretical sampling, is common in grounded theory. In the present study, the researchers did not use emergent themes to develop the theory. Rather, they used the results of data analysis to clarify the state of the art in the phenomena under study.
An important ethical consideration is the need to maintain the anonymity of the respondents involved in the study. The present study scores highly in this regard because of its consistency in concealing the identities of the managers, executives, and supervisors who were consulted. Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) also maintained the anonymity of the organizations and corporations that were targeted for the study while at the same time retaining all the relevant details for purposes data analysis such as the identities of all the sectors represented, the number of staff members affected by downsizing, and the number of layers removed during delayering.
Moreover, the decision to embrace process consent by holding some of the interviews away from the respondents’ places of work constituted a crucial ethical consideration. It allowed the interviewees to provide personal details of their experiences regarding organizational change and the dynamics of managerial careers without being seen to antagonize the official position on the matter. It would have been unethical for the researchers to create a situation in which company staff members would start being viewed in an unfavorable light by their superiors for simply expressing their discontent with the way their employers have been handling issues of managerial careers and job security in an effort to replace managerial capitalism with investor capitalism. In other words, the non-maleficence principle was observed in the study because at no time did the researchers appear to subject vulnerable respondents to unnecessary psychological distress and potential harm arising from disclosure of information on their companies’ strategies, processes, practices, and operations.
Critique of the Qualitative Methodology and Data Analysis
Qualitative research embodies various approaches that have both commonalities and differences. The commonalities arise from the view of truth as a subjective reality that varies from one individual to the other while the differences arise from variations in philosophical underpinnings of different qualitative research methods. However, these research methods also happen to share many similarities. In qualitative research, the reality of interdependence among multiple variables is normally emphasized, such that researchers never attempt to isolate a phenomenon into its constituent variables with a view to study them independently of each other.
In qualitative research, the dominant view is that a phenomenon is always larger than the sum of its constituent parts, hence the need to study it holistically. It is for this same reason that qualitative researchers avoid generalizing data to the entire population but instead focus on exploring individuals’ experiences. In some cases, the researchers extend the scope of their studies to the development of new theory. In the present study, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) did not extend the scope of their inquiry to a point where they could develop a new theory. Nevertheless, the aspects of contemporary career research that they investigated can undoubtedly contribute to the development of organization theory if expounded in future research.
The process of carrying out qualitative research should involve the search for multiple truths, discovery, and description, as well as efforts to understand the social world based on the participants’ point of view. This means that interactions between researchers and participants are as important as the need to recruit participants who are willing and able to describe experiences relating to the phenomenon under study. The resulting “soft data”, which takes the form of words, provides a basis for analysis and interpretation of findings. Printed materials and other relevant documentation play a critical role in the data collection process, and they contribute immensely to the presentation of analysis using the narrative form. In such situations, the field situation may inevitably change and so can the procedures for gathering the data. Thus, the qualitative research calls for the ability of the researcher to revise the tools and procedures being used to collect data.
The present study contains all the hallmarks of qualitative research. To begin with, multiple truths have been pursued, whereby the researchers explore claims that the “old” career is giving way to a “new” career. Throughout this investigation, soft data is relied on to examine both sides of the phenomenon. The multiplicity of truths is best reflected in the literature review, where the authors highlight the conflicting views of researchers; some of them argue that the old career is here to stay while others insist that the old career has already been replaced by the new career.
In the present study, the entire process of data analysis entailed discovery and description, whereby interviewees’ responses were presented in a manner that demonstrated the way in which interactions occurred as part of the data collection process. Through such interactions, the researchers were able to deduce trends that would form the basis for deriving findings and conclusions. For example, through such interactions, the researchers observed that job security had decreased dramatically in the USA and UK. On the other hand, they noted that the concept of declining job security was less pronounced in Japan. To support this view, the researchers pointed to the fact that compulsory redundancies of permanent employees were yet to occur in Japan.
In another example, the study highlights the dominance of the concept of the seniority system in Japan in relation to the concept of career progression. For the USA and UK, the emphasis is on delayering and downsizing as well as their effects in terms of bringing about a shift towards lateral mobility. However, further analysis shows that the same issues (delayering and downsizing) cannot be ruled out in the case of Japan. This kind of analysis shows the kind of dynamism that a qualitative researcher can embody in a study without appearing to provide contradictory information. In the end, all that matters is the ability by the researcher to use the inductive approach to come up with conclusions that follow from the available data.
Comparison with Quantitative Research by Other Researchers
Quite a number of researchers have examined the issue of changing managerial careers using the quantitative research method. For example, Ruderman et al. (2002) highlighted the issue of multiple roles and the benefits they can portend for managerial women. The quantitative data that the researchers obtained was part of an attempt to highlight developmental issues that continue to face managerial women. The study was conducted using a two-phase design, which involved carrying out two studies (Study 1 and Study 2) and analyzing findings collectively. In Study 1, data were obtained from 61 female executives and managers, who attended a leadership development program involving intensive feedback for one year. The nature of the study was described to each participant before the commencement of telephone interviews, completion of a research questionnaire, and the granting of access to the female participants’ personal assessment ratings that their coworkers back in their respective home organizations had provided. During the briefing, the participants were also informed about the voluntary and confidential nature of the study.
The average age of the women was 40, most of them were white; they occupied different management levels: executive, upper-middle, and middle; and were all well-educated. After the program, one-hour interviews were conducted over the phone, and this was a few days after the participants had received faxed documents containing key questions for familiarization purposes. This being a quantitative study, a pilot study had previously been conducted to ensure that the responses that the interviewees provided were ideal for analysis. It is worthwhile to note that in the qualitative study by Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012), the need for such a pilot study did not arise.
Moreover, Ruderman et al. (2002) had to tape-record and transcribe data in preparation for the tasks of identifying and coding themes. This called for the use of grounded theory as well as specialized coding techniques. For Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012), the need to carry out coding of die data did not arise because theirs was a qualitative study. Similarly, Ruderman et al. (2002) faced the need to reduce data by deriving excerpts of all key portions of the answers provided by respondents. Again, this activity is essential in the quantitative study by Ruderman et al. (2002) and not the qualitative one. The quantitative aspect of the study also manifests itself in the rigors of comparing and contrasting summaries and quotes for each case with the ones that have been derived from every other case with a view to identifying themes and patterns.
This activity provides an elaborate illustration of the main difference between qualitative and quantitative research: qualitative research produces verbal, non-numerical data that is analyzed in an interpretative, subjective manner (Coughian, Cronin & Ryan, 2007) while quantitative research generates numerical information or data through mathematical analysis or statistical designs to form a basis for objective derivation of findings (Ryan, Coughlan & Cronin, 2007). Ruderman et al. (2002) eventually developed a framework consisting of 13 tentative themes, which were later on fine-tuned by adding some elaborations and nuances, leading to the emergence of six “cleanly” coded categories. Ruderman et al. (2002) stopped collecting new data when no new themes seemed to be emerging.
One of the six themes was “opportunities for enriching interpersonal skills”, and it incorporated issues relating to understanding, respecting, motivating, and developing others. Forty-two percent of the sample demonstrated the manifestation of the theme. Moreover, Ruderman et al. (2002) put the level of agreement among coders regarding the presence of these themes at 90.2 percent. Similar information was presented for each of the other five themes and then presented in a table.
Such an approach defines the essence of quantitative research, whereby emphasis is on ensuring that available data fit into certain parameters of statistical analysis even if it means limiting the amount of data that can be admitted into the analysis process. In this regard, one may draw a contrast with the study by Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012), where all available interview responses were subjected to in-depth analysis and interpretation through comparison with researchers’ observations, documented evidence, and available literature. A similar approach was adopted in Study 2, only that the latter one encompassed quantitative analysis at a different level that involved standard deviations, means, and correlations of managerial skills measures, role commitment measures, and psychological wellbeing scales. Thus, it is evident that the manner in which findings are derived in quantitative research differs remarkably from that of qualitative research.
This paper has provided a critical analysis of a qualitative study by Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012), which addresses the issue of emerging organizational forms and their impact on changing managerial careers in the USA, Japan, and the UK. The analysis hopefully sheds some light on how qualitative research differs from quantitative research particularly in terms of research methodology and data analysis. Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) used non-experimental, descriptive research design to compare organizational change and emerging trends in managerial careers in sample public- and private-sector organizations from the three aforementioned countries.
In line with the objective of qualitative research, Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012) seek to describe what is already in existence, discover new meaning, and determine the relationship between specific variables through the subjective interpretation of verbal data generated through formal and informal interviews. This approach is contrasted with that of Ruderman et al. (2002), who use the quantitative approach to generate generates numerical information and data through mathematical analysis or statistical designs to form a basis for objective derivation of findings. Based on this critical analysis, researchers can get a better idea of the rationale for choosing between qualitative and quantitative research approaches. In Hassard, Morris & McCann (2012), the choice of the qualitative research methodology was appropriate because it facilitated a comparative study of phenomena that continue to attract varied opinions among researchers, managers, and executives.
Coughian, M., Cronin, P. & Ryan, F. (2007). A step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 1: Quantitative research. British Journal of Nursing, 16(11), 658-663.
Hassard, J., Morris, J. & McCann, L. (2012). ‘My Brilliant Career’? New Organizational Forms and Changing Managerial Careers in Japan, the UK, and the USA. Journal of Management Studies, 49(3), 571-599.
Ruderman, M., Ohlott, P., Panzer, K. & King, S. (2002). Benefits of Multiple Roles for Managerial Women. Academy of Management Journal, 45(2), 369-386.
Ryan, F., Coughlan, M. & Cronin, P. (2007). A step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 2: Qualitative research. British Journal of Nursing. 16(12), 738-744.