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Understanding Phenomenological Research Philosophy

Question:

Disucss about the role of Phenomenological Research Methodology in Management Research.

The importance of management research in today’s world cannot be overemphasized. While there are many companies which intend to expand itself in new, foreign markets, there are some companies that wish to measure employee satisfaction level in order to increase employee engagement and reduce the problem of staff turnover. In order to carry out management research, different companies adopt different research methods, depending on the needs or the circumstances and the research paradigm or philosophy also differs according to the research methods. One of the most widely used and popular qualitative research methods is the Phenomenological research philosophy, that is often used in sharp contrast with the more scientific method of research- the Positivist research philosophy. The Phenomenological research method believes in evaluating and gaining an insight into the subjective experience of the respondents, in order to develop an understanding of the research problem at hand (Thines 2015). It would be interesting to note how the Phenomenological research method helps in effective management research.


Before discovering and analysing the effectiveness of the Phenomenological research in management research, it is important to define it. Phenomenological research method is a research method which intends to explore and analyse the ‘lived experience’ of a phenomenon. The focus is not just on the information revealed through a survey, but rather on unfolding the meaning of the experience, as lived by the respondent. Thus, the chief advantage of the Phenomenological research is that it intends to gain an insight into the perspective, thoughts and ideas belonging to the respondent, and the in-depth study of the respondent’s perspectives helps in understanding his perspectives. This can be illustrated with an example. An organization may be willing to explore the impact of recent change in leadership style on employee motivation. A simple survey, asking the employees to rate their satisfaction in a scale of 1 to 5, or merely quantifying their experience will not help in understanding which aspect of the present leadership style do the employee exactly wish to resist. Herein lays the importance of the Phenomenological research method, that employs the use of in-depth interviews with the employees, and initiate insightful discussion on the topic. This will help in comprehending the perspectives of the concerned employees, as to why they are unable to espouse the present leadership style. The chief benefit of the Phenomenological research is that it helps in framing qualitative questions that are more descriptive and ask for explanatory answers from the respondents (Cronin  and Armour 2017). By gaining insight into the personal experiences and individual feelings of the respondents, it becomes easier to understand the organizational problem in a better way, and to seek recommendations accordingly. The absoluteness of conscious existence is being studied and thoroughly examined in case of Phenomenological research method, and hence there is better scope of understanding the stakeholder perspectives than making random assumptions based on unclear, pithy survey responses (Macgregor and Waterfield 2017).

How Phenomenological Research Helps in Effective Management Research


In case of Phenomenological research method, the researcher can easily arrange an interview for gathering the participants' descriptions of their experience, and even the participants' written or oral self-report, and observe their behaviour, attitude and aesthetic expressions, to study their perspectives (Marshall and Rossman 2014). The stream of consciousness of the respondent can be explored with the help of this form of research. For example, an organization may be willing to explore how far a pay rise will help in enhancing employee engagement at workplace (Creswell and Poth 2017). For that reason, if the organization chooses to conduct a survey, the respondents here would be only able to answer this question with a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and their responses will remain limited to the scope of the question. However, on the other hand, it should be noted that by employing the use of Phenomenological research method, it is possible for an organization to ask its participants ( the employees) to describe their lived experiences as well. Thus, it would be possible for the company to understand why some employees consider pay rise to be a great source of motivation, while why others refuse to attach importance to it, and how is the pay rise expected to affect their performance rate at organization (Moustakas 1994). The Phenomenological research method helps the researcher to encourage its participants to give a full description of their experiences, to more fully describe the experiences in which the experience occurred, to explain the context and he reason behind their feelings and opinions and to offer suggestions, if any, as well. Thus, it becomes clearly evident that the prospects of Phenomenological research are infinite for organizational research. One of the most important benefits of the Phenomenological research is that it helps in making a qualitative inquiry into the situation, and make assumptions based on perspectives that can be generalized to a considerable extent (Robinson et al. 2014). Usually, the management research projects intend to discover the experiences of the stakeholders, to comprehend their perspectives, and not their opinions.


Considering this situation, surveys which offer only brief ideas about their experiences and needs, can never be effective for conducting organizational research. For example, if an organization wishes to understand why it has been experiencing a high staff turnover rate lately, it should try to gain insight into the experience of the workers, rather than asking them to fill up a questionnaire which will only comprise of brief responses, in the form of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, followed by a short explanation. On the other hand, the use of case study would be equally futile as it would never be able to provide data that can be said to be representative of the perspectives and view points of the target audience(Aburge 2017). While conducting any research, veracity of the data collected is highly important, and yet in case of various management research projects, the managers or even the employees fail to offer objective responses while being asked to respond to the survey questions, and this ends up distorting the research findings. For example, the manager of any organization may never be willing to disclose that the organization does not have very effective work-life balance policies, and may keep on rating the survey questions as per his convenience (Tuohy et al. 2013). However, on the other hand, in case of Phenomenological research, the respondents are invariably required to explain each response and back them up with strong logic as to why do they feel so. Here, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response does not work and hence the managers will be forced to explain every word they say, and the descriptive quality of the responses helps in increasing the veracity of the facts disclosed, making the finding a far more reliable one (Mancuso and Tonelli 2014). At the same time, as already previously stated, this also helps in gaining insight into a matter, thereby offering the most feasible solution to the management problem.


To conclude, it can be stated that the above discussion clearly establishes the fact that Phenomenological research study helps in making a study far more authentic, reliable and explanatory than normally any other research would do. An organization may wish to conduct research on multiple management research problems- gauging employee motivation, understanding reasons behind the loss of customer loyalty, finding out the reasons behind loss of employee turnover rates as well as loss of employee retention. In each of the above situations, the organization will require to understand the essence of the phenomenon underlying the customers’ choice of buying or not buying products from a company, or the willingness of the employees to work in a company. The very reason why the Phenomenological research technique is the best one is that it involves trying to understand the essence of a phenomenon by simply examining the views and perspectives of the people who have experienced that phenomenon.

Reference List:

Abugre, J.B., 2017. A phenomenological study of time concept and management and productivity in a sub–Saharan African context. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, p.1470595817704005.

Creswell, J.W. and Poth, C.N., 2017. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage publications.

Cronin, C. and Armour, K.M., 2017. ‘Being’in the coaching world: new insights on youth performance coaching from an interpretative phenomenological approach. Sport, Education and Society, 22(8), pp.919-931.

Macgregor, C. and Waterfield, J., 2017. Service evaluation of an acceptance-based pain management programme using a phenomenological approach. Pain and Rehabilitation-the Journal of Physiotherapy Pain Association, 2017(42), pp.7-14.

Mancuso, M.S. and Tonelli, M., 2014. The phenomenological approach: a framework to design markets. Sage publications

Marshall, C. and Rossman, G.B., 2014. Designing qualitative research. Sage publications.

Moustakas, C., 1994. Phenomenological research methods. Sage.

Robinson, R.N., Solnet, D.J. and Breakey, N., 2014. A phenomenological approach to hospitality management research: Chefs’ occupational commitment. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 43, pp.65-75.

Smith, J.A. ed., 2015. Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. Sage.

Thines, G., 2015. Phenomenology and the science of behaviour: An historical and epistemological approach.

Tuohy, D., Cooney, A., Dowling, M., Murphy, K. and Sixsmith, J., 2013. An overview of interpretive phenomenology as a research methodology. Nurse Researcher, 20(6), pp.17-20.

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