Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date



This study investigated two instances of organizational crisis occurring within a voluntary professional organization. The central research task was twofold: (1) to reconstruct accurately the historical events which preceded and followed two unsuccessful strike bids by a voluntary teachers' organization; and, (2) to develop a theoretical explanation which would account for the antecedents and consequences of the crises which inevitably surfaced after the strike bid defeat. Con­cepts drawn primarily from the organizational crisis and conflict literature provided the general conceptual orientation.

A large urban teachers' organization in the Southwestern United States was chosen as the research site. Due to the process nature of the problem, an ethnohistorical methodology (Schumacher, 1972) was selected for use. Data collection techniques included participant observation (Bruyn, 1966), document collection/analysis, utilization of unobtrusive measures (Webb, et al., 1966), and informal interviewing. Analytical techniques included the constant comparative method of qualitative data analysis (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), general content analysis, and propositional development/verification procedures suggested by Zetterberg (1965). The final product of the research was a theory­-generating ethnohistorical case study

The study suggested that voluntary professional organizations faced with an unstable and frequently unfriendly external environment develop over time a crisis frame of mind, conceptualized herein as a "crisis complex. " In attempting to come to terms with the threatening nature of the environment, and thereby improving their own low degree of environmental control, these organizations plan the strategic creation of crises.

In the creation of these crises, voluntary professional organi­zations establish and rigidly adhere to a pre-programmed "crisis routine" comprised of a series of antecedent activities designed to promote the inevitability of crisis. Conceptually, these routines appear to be similar in structure and function to Pondy's (1967) notion of conflict routines, and in terms of process follow the sentiment-interaction-­activity progression formulated by Homans (1950). Fully executed, the crisis routine should result in the occurrence of a planned crisis.

The study further claimed that rigid adherence to a crisis routine also results in a series of unanticipated intraorganizational consequences, many of them latent and negative. Among them are the enhancement of oligarchical control, the surfacing of intraorganizational conflict linked to elements of the organizational past, and the emergence of the "group think" phenomenon (Janis, 1972). Furthermore, it is posited that unless organizational planning can make provision for the probable internal consequences of crisis routine utilization, the "planned crisis" (antithetically speaking) will fail to occur, and a separate event which has all the elements of a "true crisis" ( Herman, 1972) will indeed materialize.

Beyond the conceptual identification of the antecedents of crisis, the study suggested a number of equally unanticipated crisis consequences. The suggestion is made that the crisis aftermath is characterized by a chain of events, conceptually paralleling what Shepard (1964) has termed "loser behavior," i.e., "scapegoating," increased intraorganizational conflict, and pervasive expressions of negative sentiment. Moreover, such behavior results in additional environmental instability and loss of control, culminating eventually in conditions which lead, via the mechanism of the "self-fulfilling prophecy" {Merton, 1957), to the re-emergence of the crisis complex and another crisis cycle.

Document Type




Degree Name

Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Paul Arnold Pohland

Second Committee Member

Lawrence Bernard Rosenfeld

Third Committee Member

F. Chris Garcia

Fourth Committee Member

Ronald Eugene Blood