Resist or Comply: The Power Dynamics of Organizational Routines during Mergers

Mehdi Safavi, Omid Omidvar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of power and agency in the development of organizational routines is under-theorized. In this paper, we draw on an in-depth qualitative case study of a merger between two academic institutions, a college of art and a university, and examine the diverging responses of two organizational routines (admissions and budgeting) during the course of the merger to understand how power dynamics contribute to resistance/compliance of routines. Our findings suggest that the differences in routines’ responses to a merger initiative can be explained by applying Bourdieu's theory of practice and by employing the concepts of field and symbolic capital to unpack power relations in the context of organizational routines, and to disclose why some routine participants can exercise their agency while others cannot. We find that (a) the field within which a routine operates and (b) the actors’ symbolic capital and position-taking during change implementation shape routines’ responses to organizational change initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-566
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number3
Early online date2 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Authors British Journal of Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Academyof Management. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 MainStreet, Malden, MA, 02148, USA.This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivsLicense, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use isnon-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


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