About the Ironic Manager

How our Knowledge & Experience Can Help You

Billions of dollars are spent on organisational change annually. Data on the success of change programs suggests at least two-thirds fail, undermined by poor communication, disengagement and cynicism. It makes no sense to invest and re-invest in a process that is known to fail most of the time. Choose a different approach that emerges directly out of research into why employees behave this way and can generate positive outcomes from seemingly intractable resistance.

About Us | Background to The Ironic Manager

Our theory is sourced in a six-and-a-half year analytical study of a further a six-and-a-half-year research project into organisational change at one of the largest organisations in Australia. During this research, it became clear that, no matter how stressful the changing environment, certain employees played around with and poked fun at organisational practices and expectations, not resisting but not quite conforming either. On one hand, they employed cynicism, sarcasm, mock, ridicule and derision to discuss the changes. On the other hand, they continued to work hard and actively contribute to the change program. The term that seemed most appropriate to their stance was "ironic".

We found that they had developed an ironic perspective that had uncovered unforeseen structural contradictions in the change program, an ironic performance that transmitted these insights in a witty, jesting and playful manner, and an ironic personality that enabled them to thrive in such ambiguous and psychologically stressful conditions for an extended period of time. We discovered the following:

  • By listening to such people seriously and treating their knowledge as genuinely insightful, it becomes possible to develop hybrid solutions that meld the experience and skill set of the workforce with the requirements of the change model, producing solutions uniquely suited to the transforming organisation
  • By understanding how they shifted between wittily resistant and hard-working committed personas, it becomes possible to develop a model of the self that is simultaneously authentic and artificial, juggling often paradoxical and contradictory organisational demands while remaining mentally healthy.
  • By intervening in change projects and explicitly facilitating two-way conversations between, on one hand, leaders and change managers, and on the other, "ironic" managers and employees, we could develop double-loop learning processes that aid the chances of the change program being delivered with success.

Why Irony?

Irony is NOT just a smirk or a sneer. Originating with Socrates, irony challenges people to deeply engage with the flaws and fallibilities of the world and, following Socrates' exhortation to "live an examined life", their actions and motivations.

While it can be argued that organisational change has been going on ever since organisations existed, the science of organisational change is a relatively new managerial discipline. Surrounding it are somewhat trendy psychological concepts such as emotional and social intelligence, self-awareness, resilience, and mindfulness. By stepping back from these "new sciences" and engaging with discussions and debates that have been maturing for millennia and extend across multiple disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, rhetoric, cultural studies, art and literature, we add a depth and richness to the comprehension of change and transformation that newer studies cannot hope to emulate.

Are We Serious?

Objection, evasion, joyous distrust, and love of irony are signs of health; everything absolute belongs to pathology ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Yes, we are. We take irony in organisations very seriously. Irony is simultaneously the most destructive and creative form of communication and philosophy. Left unchecked, its communicative form can destroy the best laid of plans, reframing ideas as absurd and the people believing in them as foolish, decimating communal motivation to engage. When taken seriously by leaders and managers, the ironic perspective that informs this seemingly destructively resistant mindset shifts into a creative form, revealing flaws in plans while opening up reflective space in which the organisation can explore new ideas about work and culture that might otherwise never have surfaced.

Can We Help You?

The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

Maybe Richard can help you?

Dr Richard Claydon

Richard's research introduces and supports a “complex view” of irony, treating irony as a multi-faceted and multi-levelled outlook (perspective), rhetoric (performance) or character (personality).  It particuarly addresses the space between engagement and resistance in culture change, examining the psychological, cognitive and performative reactions of employees who better cope with the ambiguity of fast-paced business transformation and disruption. He explores how greater openness, reflexivity and irony assists individuals and organisations to cope creatively with the dilemmas and pressures of life in complex and dynamic environments.

Professor Richard Badham

Richard's research contributes to the general fields of strategy and organisational behaviour, and in particular to studies of power and politics in organisations, and the dynamics and leadership of organisational change. His work adopts a ‘strong’ cultural perspective, challenging the rituals of rationality that dominate contemporary organisations and arguing for a view of organisations as narrative, drama and performance. He also explores how greater openness, reflexivity and irony assists individuals and organisations to cope creatively with the dilemmas and pressures of life in complex and dynamic environments.

About

Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.

Research

Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.

Training

Extensive training, coaching and mentoring experience in professional development in well-known organisations, governments and business schools across the world.

Consulting

Consulting on change, transformation, culture, organisational narrative, innovation and creativity, and communications to private and public sector organizations and entities.

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The Ironic Manager website is owned and managed by Richard Claydon and Richard Badham.