A new Rogerian strategy to approach conflict

This is a part of the outline for a thesis on
Intrapreneurs as insider threats
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To identify and understand how intrapreneurs can be recognized as insider threats, I will use a Rogerian approach.

The Rogerian school seeks to resolve conflict by enabling adversaries to understand one another, to empathize with each other and find common ground, seeking shared and mutual understanding and learning.

By ”listening with understanding”, one can”see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about.” (Rogers, 20171). Building on this notion, Baumlin (19872) stated that: 

”we fight because we have forgotten that we can change ourselves,
change each other, grow towards each other rather than apart”

James S. Baumlin, Persuasion, Rogerian Rhetoric, and Imaginative Play

Rapoport (19603) and later Young et al. (19704) contrasted Rogerian strategy against two other ways of changing people, namely the Pavlovian and the Freudian strategy:

Rogerian strategy recognizes people as protective against what they perceive as threatening. It proposes that people can change if the perceived threat in changing is removed. For such threats to be substantially removed, they must first be understood and articulated. It is in line with the Rogerian strategy that this thesis attempts to articulate ways to recognize intrapreneurs as insider threats.

Freudian strategy recognizes people as influenced by their unconscious motives, unknown to themselves. It proposes that people can change if their hidden motives are revealed.

Pavlovan strategy understands people as ”a bundle of habits that can be shaped and controlled” (Rapoport, 1960) through incentives and disincentives. In existing literature on innovation management and intrapreneurship, the Pavlovan strategy is often implicitly assumed, as when Elert & Stenkula (20205) concludes that ”the rules at different layers of society must be aligned in a way that results in a relative payoff structure that incentivizes fully productive intrapreneurship—at both the firm and societal level.”

Rogerian with a twist – of ignorance

In lack of access to sources that identifies Intellipedia and/or its proponents insider threats, this thesis is only equipped with the recorded statement by Dennehy that such accusations had been voiced (Havenstein, 20086). Instead, existing literature from a broad range of relevant academic fields have been searched for perspectives supporting such positions.

To attempt a Rogerian approach when at least one central part of the conflict is missing, and instead search for arguments to support its position – that intrapreneurs can be recognized as insider threats – in academic literature, is admittedly a bold enterprise.

To achieve meaningful understanding of the perspectives of these critics, in-depth interviews and/or participant observation would be more appropriate methods than a literary review. Nevertheless, as the perspectives of critics and sceptics cannot be attained within the scope of this thesis, a literature review with a Rogerian approach is applied instead: Rather than understanding (verstehen) the point of view of skeptics or critics of intrapreneurial ventures, this thesis aims to find support for sceptical and/or critical positions against intrapreneurial ventures in general, and propose how they might apply to the case of Intellipedia.

In doing so, this thesis contributes by unearthing hitherto unstated connections between conceptual frameworks of different fields of research.

Hopefully, it also contributes to a deeper understanding of ”exploitation” positions, as opposed to ”exploration” positions, in the fight over organizational resources around intrapreneurial ventures.

Criticism of Rogerian argumentation

Rogerian argumentation has been criticized for its limitations (or fallibilities) in addressing structural inequities such as gender inequality (Lassner, 19907) and racism (Pâquet, 20198), and – in the context of nondirective psychotherapy – to hamper reflexivity amongst its practitioners (Margolin, 20209). The two former share a critique about how victims rather than perpetrators are proposed to address injustices, and they all concern ”underlying problems with power relations” (Pâquet, 2019) in Rogerian argumentation.

If “theories are stories” (Goodson, 201010), Rogerian argumentation can easily end up reinforcing the stories of the powers that be, even if they ought to be challenged, according to these critics.

In searching for possible perspectives on how intrapreneurs can be recognized as insider threats, this thesis has focused on perspectives beyond what Allison (197111) would call “governmental politics”. However, such perspectives beyond that of the rational actor-perspective (e.g. critical studies of how illegitimate leaders might exploit the concept of intrapreneurship to reaffirm their dominance by letting junior, loyal members “rebel” against more senior contestants for power, or of organizational incumbents labelling intrapreneurial challengers for power as insider threats to secure their own standing in the organization) might be very relevant.

An unreflective Rogerian approach would be to not admit this limitation in scope and reasoning. Although this thesis explores critics and sceptics to intrapreneurial ventures through a ”Model I”-perspective of participants as rational actors (Allison, 1971), other perspectives also apply for insider threats and intrapreneurship alike. 

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(Red Cat by Pejvak Samadani on Unsplash)

  1. Rogers, C. (2017) [1952] “Communication: Its Blocking and Facilitation”, ETC: A Review of General Semantics. 74:1/2, p. 129-135, URL
  2. Baumlin, J. S. (1987) ”Persuasion, Rogerian Rhetoric, and Imaginative Play”, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 17:1, p. 33–43, DOI
  3. Rapoport, A. (1960) Fights, games and debates, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, URL
  4. Young, R. E., Becker, A. L. & Pike, K. L. (1970) Rhetoric : discovery and change, Hartcourt, Brace & World, URL
  5. Havenstein, H. (2008) ”CIA Explains Intellipedia”, Computerworld, published June 10, 2008, accessed December 10, 2020, URL
  6. Lassner, P. (1990) ”Feminist Responses to Rogerian Argument”, Rhetoric Review, 8:2, p. 220-232, URL
  7. Pâquet L. (2019) ”The #Rhetoric of Waleed Aly’s ‘Send Forgiveness Viral’: Is Rogerian argumentation an appropriate response to racism?”, Argumentation & Advocacy, 55:2, p. 152-168, DOI
  8. Margolin, L. (2020) ”Rogerian Psychotherapy and the Problem of Power: A Foucauldian Interpretation”, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 60:1, p. 130–143, DOI
  9. Goodson, P. (2010) Theory in health promotion research and practice: Thinking outside the box, Jones & Bartlett Learning, URL
  10. Allison, G. T. (1971) Essence of decision: explaining the Cuban missile crisis. Glenview, URL

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