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Dora Merhi Gosen

DBA Graduate - 2020

Thesis title

Organizational Safety Culture and Change: Examining Perceptions, Assumptions and Emotions in a Facilities Management Context


Michelle Mielly
PurposeThis three-paper dissertation sets out to explore the impact of organizational culture on employee perceptions and behaviors by applying different theoretical frameworks and methodologies to a Facilities Department within a large research university. The study was carried out over a four-year period. These papers examine the overall implications that an organization’s culture holds for the specific behaviors, attitudes, and outcomes observed empirically. Design/methodology/approachThe papers in this thesis contain various methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative in nature, which include a mixed methods systematic literature review, a quantitative approach to empirically test construct relationships, and qualitative methodology using content thematic analysis to develop first, second, and aggregate thematic categories. Paper 1 used a quantitative survey to measure the relationship between safety culture, employee perceived organizational support, perceived supervisor support, and return to work. Papers 2 and 3 used a qualitative, phenomenological lens to query the work of a committee. Paper 2 used a single case study design, and paper 3 extended the study over time and included new data sources. A variety of data sources were used for the last two papers. FindingsPaper 1, using quantitative methodology from survey data, suggests that safety culture reduces the number of post-injury days taken by employees and the influence of the organization’s safety culture on the will to return to work. Papers 2 and 3, using a qualitative, longitudinal case study approach explore the contributions of a micro-organizational unit (a council) in inducing employee perceptions and behaviors and the underlying culture it creates. Paper 2 examines specifically the association formed between a committee and organizational safety culture through the lens of Edgar Schein’s organizational culture model. The findings suggest that deeper organizational assumptions about safety and related actions can be identified by analyzing unintended consequences and unexpected outcomes. Paper 3 explores the role of the committee in negative and positive emotional transformation processes through the prism of Neo-Normative Control Theory. Findings suggest that ultimately, negative emotions can be invoked to propel employees to beneficial action and implicitly consolidate normative control. Research and practical implicationsOur findings offer insights into the complexity of cultural change in organizations, and the significance of individual perceptions in framing and building organizational discourses. In addition, the findings of our study enable human resource managers, safety managers, facilities managers, employees and their families, and policymakers to understand the impact of organizational culture. This includes its capacity to positively influence perceptions and shift employee attitudes and behaviors. Originality/valueThere are three different areas of value or originality: first, extant literature has not sufficiently examined the relationship between safety culture and return to work in post-injury scenarios. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first study to demonstrate a direct linkage between safety culture, perceived organizational and supervisor support, and return to work. Second, prior scholarship has not examined at length the impact of micro-organizational units (committees or councils) in changing culture. Our second study is unique since it looks at unintended consequences as a window into the innermost layer of organizational culture, its hidden and implicit assumptions, as per Edgar Schein’s organizational culture model (1985, 1990). Furthermore, committees provided a focal interest in our third study as we expanded current understandings of neo-normative control, with the committee as the primary matrix of control. This study focused on positive and negative emotional tactics as