Managing the threat of terrorism in British travel and leisure organizations

Sullivan-Taylor, Bridgette and Wilson, David (2009). Managing the threat of terrorism in British travel and leisure organizations. Organization Studies, 30(2/3) pp. 251–276.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840608101480

Abstract

This paper examines the perceived threats from terrorism in six organizations in the travel and leisure sector in the UK. These organizations are particularly exposed to such extreme threats. This paper examines how managers in organizations deal with uncertainty where probabilities are impossible or difficult to define and examines how they face the challenge of interpreting and acting upon these interpretations. Theoretically the paper draws upon two lenses: organizational resilience and institutional perspectives. The former assumes managers can act autonomously to increase organizational resilience. The latter argues that systemic features of organization are more accurate explanations of why managers and organizations fail to spot threats and impending disasters. The data indicate that perceptions of uncertainty and threats from terrorism and theories of action differ in and between organizations depending upon factors such as the accuracy and completeness of information; previous experience of terrorist events and whether or not these threats were prioritized over other uncertainties. Three organizations in the aviation industry prioritize threats from terrorism, whilst three organizations in the leisure and travel sector do not. Managers in the aviation industry tend to take a proactive, organizational resilience stance towards uncertainty, whilst managers in the other organizations are more reactive, or take little action, with systemic features of organization taking precedence over decisions and actions.

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