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Positioning, conflict, and dialogue in management teams

Pasi Hirvonen (Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 20 February 2019

Issue publication date: 21 November 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the dynamics of social positioning and interpersonal conflicts in management teams. This paper utilizes positioning theory to analyze team conflicts by combining microlevel interaction analysis and explicit, meso-level team research in the context of managerial work.


This research is based on an analysis of 34 conflict episodes that occurred during management board meetings conducted by two Finnish public research institutions. By analyzing naturally occurring interactions and video material, this paper presents a discursive analysis of conflict from the perspective of positioning theory, focusing on local moral orders, social positions and the construction of dialogue.


This study’s findings illuminate how team conflicts may be understood in terms of positioning theory, as well as how positioning is connected to managing conflicts and constructing either degenerative or generative dialogue in teams. The present study indicates possibilities for applying positioning theory as a methodological tool when studying team interactions and dialogue.

Practical implications

The study offers practical implications regarding team conflict management. By developing an understanding of the positioning dynamics of managers and other team members, one can help create constructive and generative dialogue in teams.


From a methodological perspective, this paper presents a novel approach to the study of team conflicts and outlines several suggestions regarding the theoretical approach in the analysis of team interaction and dynamics.



The author is deeply grateful for the insightful comments and suggestions provided by the anonymous reviewers. The author would also like to thank both the editors of the paper and all colleagues and friends for their most enriching comments regarding the paper. This paper is a part of a doctoral dissertation supported by the Kone Foundation (Koneen Säätiö) research scholarship granted to Pasi Hirvonen.


Hirvonen, P. (2019), "Positioning, conflict, and dialogue in management teams", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 444-464.



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