Doing research on power and politics in multinational corporations (MNCs): A methodological perspective

Rebecca Piekkari, Susanne Tietze

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction That morning the view from the chief executive officer (CEO)‘s office on the top floor of a European MNC headquarters was particularly beautiful. The sun was shining brightly over the harbour and the city centre was full of life because of the rush hour. Despite his busy schedule the CEO had personally called to set up a meeting with me and my PhD student, Peter. Together with Peter, I had co-authored an essay on managerial politics which was to be published as part of his dissertation. As a gesture of politeness, we had sent the entire dissertation to the CEO prior to publication as he was the main sponsor of the research project and had granted Peter the access needed to undertake the study. But the CEO did not want to waste time on small talk: ‘So you are approaching the final stages of your PhD project, Peter?', he said. ‘Yes, it has taken me more than four years to finish the study and it feels great to be at this stage’, Peter replied with a big smile. ‘Let me be very frank with both of you’, the CEO said looking directly at me, ‘as we have known each other for many years. I really don’t like the way you use the term “politics” and even “lying” in your essay. I know for sure that there is no room for political behaviour under my leadership - politics simply do not exist in my company! I want you to remove the word “politics” from the manuscript,' he ended with anger in his voice. As the senior researcher, I had to step in and defend our work: ‘But this is our interpretation of the many interviews that Peter has conducted over the years with your people! It is common practice in qualitative research that key informants are asked to confirm the facts but it is up to the researcher to draw the conclusions and provide the theoretical framing.' Peter looked shattered by the CEO’s outburst. Things got worse when the CEO gave me the manuscript in which he had crossed out all the words relating to ‘politics’ in their various forms. He also advised us to retitle the paper, which was based on a play on words alluding to conflict and tension in headquarters-subsidiary relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMicropolitics in the Multinational Corporation
Subtitle of host publicationFoundations, Applications and New Directions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781107283947
ISBN (Print)9781107053670
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

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