Dissertatie: How the unsaid shapes decision-making


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Thesis: A REFLEXIVE EXPLORATION OF PARADIGMS IN THE BOARDROOM


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While board of directors are of institutional importance, scholars have a limited understanding of boardroom processes. Uncovering the black box of board decision-making requires direct observation of what goes on in the boardroom and overcoming many methodological challenges. This abductive subjective account reflexively explored board’s decision-making, not through what is said, but through the unsaid. The author observed 37 board meetings of 17 boards and interviewed 119 board members about what happened during those meetings. The author more specifically explored how board members responded ‘in action’, what they had not said and why and when they consciously or ‘preconsciously’ chose to silence their thoughts and feelings. Putting the unsaid, instead of the said, front and center, meant exploring the difference between what is said and thought, and thus how blind spots, incongruities and perceived incongruities, shape board decision-making. 


This dissertation offers an emerging explanation of  1) how taken for granted and automatic, socio-cognitive processes between board members shape board decision-making;  2) how board members who consider their governance paradigm objective - and therefore, are considered paradigm-attached - enact a spiral of what remains unsaid when they try to manage silent conflicts through informal decision-making 3) how four silence climates shape four different levels of cohesiveness and cognitive conflict towards board effectiveness and 4) how being aware of different levels of consciousness and perspective is required to investigate assumptions taken for granted as well as automatic behavior in boards. 


Marilieke Engbers

Marilieke Engbers (1969) completed her PhD at the School of Business and Economics at the VU University Amsterdam. She combines her lectures on strategy realization for the VU Finance and Control Program with consulting work for Reconsulting on board effectiveness, self-evaluations, strategy and leadership.  During her PhD Marilieke was assigned by the Housing Associations Authority to research how board’s monitor the risks of long tenured CEO’s. She published the report ‘Kracht en Tegenkracht’ in 2019.