Emotional ownership and conflict dynamics

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This chapter discusses the study’s interpretive, abductive research philosophy and approach, its qualitative exploratory methodological choice as well as its chosen case study strategy. Besides, it deals with the data analysis procedures employed and addresses concerns regarding the thesis’ trustworthiness and research ethics, focusing especially on issues related to consent and confidentiality.

Research Approach

Since the purpose of this thesis is to explore the role emotional ownership plays in regard to role and relationship conflicts within family firms, the aspects studied- like for instance human relationships and related emotions, are exclusively intangible. Thence, this thesis as-sumes an interpretive research philosophy, which is especially suited for situations in which researchers need to make sense of subjective and socially constructed meanings expressed about the phenome-non being studied (Saunders et al., 2012, p. 163) and in which they need to understand the dif-ferences between humans in their role(s) as social actors.
The study will take on an abductive approach, where inductive inferences are developed and deduc-tive ones are tested iteratively throughout the research (Saunders et al., 2012, p.163). Abduction thereby consists of assembling or discovering, on the basis of an interpretation of collected data, such com-binations of features for which there is no appropriate explanation or rule in the store of knowledge that al-ready exists, and the subsequent search for the (new) explanation (Flick, 2014, p. 304). This is appropriate for the purpose of this thesis since an interpretive abductive research ap-proach acknowledges that human behaviour is critically dependent on the context in which the social actors find themselves and allows (new) theory to emerge from an interplay be-tween known theoretical facts and new empirical findings (Saunders et al., 2012).

Methodological Choice

A study’s methodological choice generally relates to the selection between two distinct re-search methods, namely qualitative and quantitative, and three different types of study, namely descriptive, exploratory and explanatory (Saunders et al., 2012).
Since this thesis seeks to explore the role EO plays in regard to role and relationship con-flicts within family firms, utilizing a qualitative research method is appropriate. This is be-cause qualitative research relates to thorough depictions of situations, detailed descriptions of people, events and interactions, observed behaviour as well as people’s testimonies about their experiences, feelings, believes and thoughts (Patton, 2015) and is thus well suit-ed to provide rich insights into the studied phenomenon. Besides, qualitative research is usually linked to an interpretive research philosophy that concentrates on making sense of complex social phenomena (Saunders et al., 2012).
Since exploratory studies enable the researcher to learn what is happening and thus gain in-sights about an unclear phenomenon (Bajpai, 2011; Sanders et al., 2012), it is the appropri-ate choice for this study. This is because, even though there is some research done in the field of role and relationship conflict within family firms, the phenomenon has not yet been explored from an EO perspective, so that only limited inferences about it can be made based on previous findings. This furthermore stresses the appropriateness of an explorato-ry study that helps to address this gap in scientific literature by adding new findings and ex-panding the knowledge.

Research Strategy

Case Study

For the purpose of this thesis, a case study strategy will be employed. This is appropriate since case study research allows the researcher to study a given phenomenon – in this case role and relationship conflicts, within the context – in this case family businesses, in which it appears (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Yin, 2014). Since context is especially important when it comes to exploring EO’s role in the development of role and relationship conflicts within family firms, utilizing a case study strategy presents a good fit for the purpose of this study. To achieve an in-depth investigation of the phenomenon, this research will use a variety of respondents from different family business backgrounds. Specifically, this thesis will ex-plore the role of EO on relationship and role conflict with the help of eight respondents from six case companies; four of which are based in Sweden and two in the United King-dom. Since the case companies stem from diverse backgrounds and vary in size as well as longevity, the phenomenon is studied within diverse cases equalling a multiple case study design (Yin, 2014). Taking a multiple case study approach allows for an in-depth investiga-tion of the phenomenon while also accommodating for the often mentioned heterogeneity of family businesses (cf. Chua et al., 2012; Garcia-Alvarez & Lopez-Sintas, 2001; Wright et al; 2014). Contrary to a single case study, a multiple case study allows to investigate a phe-nomenon within as well as across individual settings (Baxter & Jack, 2008). As such a mul-tiple case study strategy p roposes the best fit for this thesis’s research purpose since it per-mits to identify common features of the studied phenomenon across different cases. Be-sides, it also has the advantage of enabling the researcher to take a comparative and con-trasting stance while analyzing the phenomenon (Maylor & Blackmon, 2005).
Generally a case study strategy can encompass a wide variety of distinct data collection techniques (Yin, 2014). However, this thesis concentrates on the use of semi-structured in-dividual interviews in combination with scenarios (see Chapter 3.3.4). To contextualize the empirical findings and help their triangulation additional documentary secondary data has been collected (see Chapter 3.3.5).

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Method of Access

The family businesses approached for this thesis, all stem from the personal network of one of the thesis’s authors. Thus, the sampling method used for this thesis can best be de-scribed as convenience sampling – a sampling method relating to a selection of case com-panies based on easy availability (Saunders et al., 2012). Although this sampling method is prone to influences and biases that are beyond the researcher control, as cases might ap-pear only because it was convenient to obtain them, using convenience sampling was be-lieved to be the best available option for this research project. This is mainly due to the sensitive nature of the research topic which makes it difficult to approach companies that are totally unfamiliar with the researcher. Also opening up the research respondents and obtaining high quality information when dealing with sensitive subjects was thought to be easier in cases where the case respondents were at least flippantly affiliated with (one of) the researchers. Besides, in order to obtain the best possible fit between the sample and the research purpose and subsequently boost credibility of the research findings a purposive el-ement was introduced into the sampling process. Reflecting on the purpose of the thesis that aims to explore EO’s influence on role and relationship conflicts within family busi-nesses, the case respondents were selected keeping in mind family firm heterogeneity (cf. Chua et al., 2012; Garcia-Alvarez & Lopez-Sintas, 2001; Wright et al; 2014). This means that while all case companies fit the family firm definition outlined in Chapter 2.1, they nevertheless stem from different industries, vary in size, longevity as well as in the number of family members active in the organization.
Initially, all family businesses were approached by phone to see if there was a general inter-est from their part to participate in this research. In cases where a general interest was voiced, an email explaining the nature and purpose of the research was sent to the prospec-tive respondents. The family members of those family businesses that consented to take part in the research were then again contacted via email and in some cases additionally also via phone, to provide them with a provisional interview outline and set-up the interview dates and times. To smoothen the process and ensure that sufficient empirical data could be collected the initial contact took place as early as autumn 2014, and interested respond-ents have been in contact with the researchers ever since.

1 Introduction 
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem statement
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Delimitations
1.5 Outline
2 Frame of Reference 
2.1 Conflicts in family firms
2.2 Emotional ownership
2.3 Emotional ownership and conflict dynamics
3 Methodology 
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Methodological Choice
3.3 Research Strategy
3.4 Data Analysis Procedure
3.5 Trustworthiness
3.6 Research Ethics
4 Empirical Findings
4.1 Company A
4.2 Company B
4.3 Company C
4.4 Company D
4.5 Company E
4.6 Company F
4.7 Summary of empirical findings
5 Analysis 
5.1 Emotional ownership
5.2 Role separation
5.3 Conflict
5.4 Summary: EO’s influence on role and relationship conflicts within family firms
6 Conclusion, Contributions and Suggestions for further Research 
6.1 Conclusion
6.2 Contributions
6.3 Suggestions for further research
An emotional ownership perspective on the dynamics of role conflicts and relationship conflicts within family businesses

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