Guest Lecture by Arvind Karunakaran


Leacock Building Room 738, 855 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 2T7, CA

Navigating Status-Authority Asymmetry between Professions: The Case of 911 Emergency Management.

Abstract: Status-authority asymmetry between professions emerge when a profession characterized by lower status is mandated by the organization to command and get work done from another professions with higher status and lower formal authority. This, in turn, can undermine cross-professional coordination. How do lower-status professionals with higher formal authority navigate status-authority asymmetry to orchestrate cross-professional coordination with higher-status professionals? To answer this question, I conducted as 24-month ethnography of 911 emergency management, and examined remote coordination encounters between 911 dispatchers (lower status professionals with higher formal authority) and police officers(higher status professionals with lower formal authority). I identify a set of practices entailing communication media(open or private radio channels) and relational tactics (personalizing to offers, escalating to supervisors, and publicizing to peers) that 911 dispatchers use during the emergency coordination process. Specifically, I find that as compared to the personalizing and escalating tactics, publicizing an individual police officer's non-compliant behavior to his immediate peer group(i.e. the police unit) via the open radio  channel enabled the dispatchers to navigate status-authority asymmetry and orchestrate cross-professional coordination. Insofar as the lower-status professionals are able to manage the common information space (in this case, the open radio channel) to create and disseminate peer knowledge about the non-compliant behavior of higher-status professionals, then that will in turn trigger peer control, as the non-compliant individuals' professional status is on the line in front of the immediate peer group. I discuss the implications of these findings for research on cross-professional coordination and status attainment.

Contact Information

Arvind Karunakaran
Desautels Faculty of Management
Arvind.Karunakaran [at]