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The experience of foreign and commonwealth soldiers in the British Army: an exploration and methodological commentary

Greene, Balissa (2016) The experience of foreign and commonwealth soldiers in the British Army: an exploration and methodological commentary. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The British Army is a large complex organisation, characterised by power and authority. Although it is mainly white and male, approximately seven percent of its personnel are from Foreign and Commonwealth (F&C) countries. Most of these personnel are from ethic minority groups. The study of ethnic and national diversity within British organisations is largely absent from the published organisational psychology literature in the UK. An understanding of the practical and political challenges of doing organisational research and the impact of these on the findings are also absent from the literature. This thesis addresses these deficiencies by exploring the working lives of F&C soldiers in the British Army and commenting on the organisational research experience. Despite their highly visible ‘immigrant’ status and different cultural background, this is the first such study of F&C personnel within the Army for 16 years since F&C employment began. A substantial qualitative study of 14 focus groups and 13 interviews was conducted in order to understand the experiences of these personnel and those that work with them. A thematic analysis of 16 documents provided the organisational perspective on F&C personnel. Building on the theoretical framework of social identity and double consciousness, this thesis draws links between organisational process designed to support hierarchy and their effects on how groups of individuals, foreign to and unfamiliar with these processes experience the organisation. It also combines two theoretical approaches to offer a unique understanding of multiply marginalised groups within organisations. This research shows that diversity in organisations is influenced by organisational policies as well as intergroup processes. F&C soldiers and British soldiers perceive their ability to control and influence their careers differently. Values and cultural background were key determinants in the social identity of F&C and British personnel. These groups of soldiers positioned themselves differently within the organisation. In particular, ethnic minority F&C personnel were positioned as a ‘problematic’ group of soldiers by their white soldier counterparts, whereas white F&C personnel were more readily accepted within the organisation and identified with the values of the organisation. The findings illustrate the need for further exploration, not only of the interaction between ethnicity and nationality at work, but also, the impact of conducting research on sensitive topics within large complex organisations on the production of new knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Balissa Greene
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Stockdale, Jan

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