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Managing Discursive Tension: the Co–Existence of Individualist and Collaborative Discourses in Flight Centre

Ian Palmer and Richard Dunford

Journal of Management Studies, 2002, vol. 39, issue 8, 1045-1069

Abstract: Our study of the travel agency Flight Centre began as a case study of a company that appears to be a ‘success story’ in what is a highly competitive industry. In the course of our study we found that inscribed in Flight Centre were two, differing discourses which appear to co–exist in creative tension throughout the organization. One discourse is competitive individualism and the other collaborative teamwork. Our paper focuses on how Flight Centre has made use of multiple discourses such as these in the process of achieving competitive advantage, and how people manage the differing discursive logics which confront them on a day–to–day basis. The paper proceeds by identifying the social and textual practices which constitute each discourse. It then establishes the discursive co–existence and tension which exists between the two discourses. Study is made of the conditions under which this discursive co–existence is disrupted. We then identify the interpretative routines and practices through which organizational actors maintain and reproduce discursive co–existence. Our paper concludes by considering a variety of implications of studying multiple discourses in organizations.

Date: 2002
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