Role Ambiguity and Perceived Organizational Politics in Wolf Recovery: Washington State Wildlife Agency Personnel Perspectives
Gowan, Catherine Harper
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Wolf recovery in Washington (WA) State provokes contentions amongst stakeholders: livestock owners, environmental groups, government organizations, and the public. Wolf recovery in WA also incites internal disputes and strains working relationships within state government entities charged with wolf management. These divisions undoubtedly undermine wolf recovery and conservation efforts. WA State is in the early stages of wolf recovery. Consequently, it is important to understand, in order to preemptively manage, emerging issues among disputing parties in the recovery process. To this end, we conducted 60 in-depth, semi-structured key informant interviews and two focus group interviews from October 2013 through March 2015 with primary stakeholders in the wolf recovery efforts: livestock owners, conservation organization officials, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) employees. The purpose was to ascertain salient perspectives regarding wolf recovery in WA, with an original focus on economic programs to aid ranchers affected by wolves. Non-directive moderation techniques were used for all interviews. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim before analysis. Data analysis followed the grounded theory approach, a predominantly inductive process, which allows for salient perspectives to emerge from the data rather than as predetermined by the researcher. Preliminary coding suggested that a major issue of conflict about wolf recovery in WA State is distrust among relevant stakeholders. During second cycle coding, role ambiguity and perceived organizational politics emerged as factors that are relevant to goal alignment and trust within the WDFW and subsequent interactions with other stakeholders. Hence, these matters of occupational and organizational psychology constitute the focus for this thesis. Occupational and organizational factors are pertinent to interactions that rely on trust to ensure cooperation, such as signing contracts for cost-share measures to prevent livestock depredation by wolves. Our findings suggest that role ambiguity and perceived organizational politics are intricately tied to effective and trustworthy interactions with livestock owners, environmental groups, and the general public as well as the occupational performance of WDFW employees. If the WDFW focuses on reducing role ambiguity and changing the nature of organizational politics, there should be an increase in goal alignment and trust within the organization. Improvement in both of these areas will increase the effectiveness of the Agency by promoting organizational ambidexterity and a variety of positive occupational outcomes. The interviews exposed a great need to further explore the internal workings of the WDFW.
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