Resource or Threat? On the Ambivalence of Internal Criticism in International Organizations

Ben Christian's dissertation project investigates the question of how inter­national organizations (IOs) deal with the internal criticism of their employees. With regard to “criticism from within”, IOs face a dilemma: On one hand, internal criticism is an important resource for organiza­tional learning processes, enabling IOs to prevent failures and deliver better results. On the other hand, internal criticism can also pose a serious threat to the external reputation as well as to the internal stability of IOs, uncovering the inevitable discre­pancies between organiza­tional talk and action. How are IOs dealing with this ambi­valence of internal criticism? In which situations is internal criticism promoted, when is it suppressed? And: How could a construc­tive dealing with “criticism from within” in IOs look like? An explorative case study on “organiza­tional learning” in the UN Secretariat serves as an empirical basis for addressing these and other questions. Organiza­tional sociology, practice theory and the "sociology of critique" provide the theo­retical framework for the analysis.