Management as negotiation at the interface : moving beyond the critical—practice impasse
The seemingly marginal contribution of management theory to management practice has been commented on in different contexts. Specifically, critical management studies (CMS) seems suspended in an impasse between the aim to critique dominant management practice and discourse, and the expectation to facilitate transformative management action. This paper argues that the theory—practice impasse may, in part, be a result of reductivist perspectives discursively produced by both mainstream and critical management studies. To illustrate this argument, the paper refers to a case study exploring middle management practice in the higher education context. It demonstrates that academic middle management practice as constructed by polarized and polarizing discourses of either managerial or critical orientation is counterproductive to a full understanding of this practice and the contribution it can make to organizations if properly understood, and proposes an alternative reading aimed to `cross the divide' between discourses and between theory and practice. It is proposed that a more constructive engagement with multiple rationalities can move towards a more comprehensive understanding of currently marginalized management activity, and, from there, towards a more productive link between theory and practice.