UTFacultiesBMSEventsPhD Defence Ellen Nathues | The voices we hear in interorganizational collaboration: Differences in Dialogue

PhD Defence Ellen Nathues | The voices we hear in interorganizational collaboration: Differences in Dialogue


The PhD defence of Ellen Nathues will take place (partly) online and can be followed by a live stream.
Live stream

Ellen Nathues is a PhD student in the department of Educational Science (OWK). Supervisors are prof. dr. M.D. Endedijk (Educational Science) and dr. M. van Vuuren (Communication Science), both from the Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social Sciences (BMS).

Imagine you are a professional working at an organization. Already in your regular job and everyday work, you have a lot to make sense of: What is the professional image you have of yourself? Do you identify with your organization and its visions and values? Can you combine your interests and ambitions with those of your company or department?

Now, imagine you join an interorganizational team. You are now part of both your organization and your new interorganizational group, next to the affiliations with your profession, department, field, and so on. As your memberships, identities, and interests multiply, the lines between your many roles and attachments start to blur, or they begin to constantly compete for primacy. In one moment, you identify with the person sitting across the table in your joint interorganizational project and collaborative goals; in the next, you remember the (possibly deviating) objectives that your organization has for the collaboration. It is almost as if your organization is another voice in the back of your mind, one that creeps under your tongue and is so powerful that, only a breath later, it makes you voice these deviating aims. Because is that not what you are ultimately there for in your new interorganizational team? To represent—or perhaps more accurately, make present—your organization? 

Then your vis-à-vis utters something and interrupts your thoughts as you begin wondering why her words do not make much sense to you. Filtered through the organizational glasses that figuratively color your view, you have difficulty grasping what your counterpart is trying to convey. You look at her and the many documents that she has spread out all over the table, and you realize: Right now, you are not only hearing her talking but also her organization and its routines, values, interests, and ways of doing things, through what she and the documents are saying. In other words, you are not just having a conversation with the individual team member in front of you, but one with equally her organization, this organization’s interests and values, etc. Vice versa, your vis-à-vis is not solely talking to you, but likewise to the many voices you embody and express. And now, amid this multivoicedness, you need to find common ground and agree on collaborative goals and activities to make your interorganizational teamwork successful.


Interorganizational collectives have been described as multivoiced arenas already in earlier work (e.g., Bouwen & Steyaert, 1999; Gray, 1994; Gray & Schruijer, 2010; Lewis et al., 2010). This dissertation empirically explores and substantiates this analogy by unpacking ‘The Voices We Hear in Interorganizational Collaboration,’ including how they shape, constitute, and (dis)organize collaborative processes and practices. In other words, it lays bare the ‘Differences in Dialogue’ in interorganizational collaboration and unveils their performative effects.

It starts with an introductory chapter (Chapter I) on interorganizational collaboration’s particular characteristics, possibilities, and complications, the research assumptions and theoretical perspectives that orient this work, and the study’s empirical setting. Chapter II maps an overview of the multiple differences that matter in interorganizational collaboration. This dissertation then develops a methodological framework that aids in identifying and tracing the many voices that partake in organizational interactions (Chapter III). Finally, this framework is applied to generate new insights about essential processes of interorganizational collaboration: How strategy is coauthored (Chapter IV) and how boundaries are built or permeated (Chapter V). Chapter VI, this dissertation’s final chapter, discusses the overarching conclusions of this work, reflects on this research, derives several core practical implications, and sketches a provisional agenda for future endeavors. Altogether, this dissertation offers subjective insider accounts, momentary snapshots, processual sketches, and bottom-up theoretical insights into how differences are in dialogue—of how different voices converse—in interorganizational collaboration. These efforts and exercises provide novel, nuanced, and more complete answers to the following two main questions:

What differences make a difference—whose voices do we hear—in interorganizational collaboration? How do these voices shape and constitute how work unfolds and organizing is accomplished?


About the author

Ellen Nathues holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Management Studies (Cum Laude) and a Master’s degree in Communication Studies (Cum Laude). Before pursuing an academic career, she worked as Marketing Manager EMEA for a US-American corporation. She currently works as a researcher at Leuphana University in Lüneburg (Germany) at the chair for Entrepreneurship, Organization, and Culture and is part of the LOST research group. From October onwards, she will return to UT on a part-time basis to work with Maaike Endedijk on the NWO-funded project ‘CLIC-IT,’ which studies new ways of organizing for learning, innovating, and digital transformation.

Ellen’s research interests broadly revolve around questions of organization and communication, with a particular focus on collaborative and cross-boundary settings. She is also interested in methodological work, especially within qualitative and posthumanist realms. She is an active member of multiple research communities and has presented her work at the European Group of Organization Studies, the International Communication Association, and the Academy of Management. Her work has received multiple conference awards and has been published in Organization Studies, Strategic Organization, and the Routledge Handbook of the Communicative Constitution of Organization.