Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Embo, M. Helsloot, K. Michels, N. and Valcke, M. 2017. A Delphi study to validate competency-based criteria to assess undergraduate midwifery students' competencies in the maternity ward. Midwifery, Vol. 53, Issue. , p. 1.

  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: August 2015

24 - What Is Consensus and How Is It Achieved in Meetings?

from Tools and Models for Promoting Meeting Success

This chapter makes three central claims: first, that the term “consensus” has been used to identify two different phenomena, mental consensus and interactional consensus; second, that unanimity (everyone agrees) and consensus (no one disagrees) are two distinct modes of collective decision-making; and third, that consensus is a mode of decision making that can be practiced in different ways, thus making it necessary to distinguish among four types of consensus when analyzing (and practicing) consensus decision making: imposed consensus, acclaimed consensus, basic consensus, and deliberative consensus. These types of consensus vary in their degree of openness toward dissenting voices.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge Handbook of Meeting Science
  • Online ISBN: 9781107589735
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Alvesson, M. (1996). Communication, power and organization. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter.
Angouri, J. (2012). Managing disagreement in problem solving meeting talk. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 15651579. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.06.010
Angouri, J., & Locher, M. A. (2012). Theorising disagreement. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 15491553. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.06.011
Arminen, I. (2005). Institutional interaction: Studies of talk at work. Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
Barber, B. R. (1984). Strong democracy: Participatory politics for a new age. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Barnes, R. (2007). Formulations and the facilitation of common agreement in meetings talk. Text & Talk, 27, 273296.
Beatty, J. (2006). Masking disagreement among experts. Episteme, 3, 5267. doi:10.3366/epi.2006.3.1–2.52
Beatty, J., & Moore, A. (2010). Should we aim for consensus? Episteme, 7, 198214. doi:10.3366/E1742360010000948
Boden, D. (1994). The business of talk: Organizations in action. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Bohlin, I. (2009). Konsensusmetoder inom hälso- och sjukvård: En kunskapsöversikt [The consensus method in the health and nursing industry: A review]. Stockholm, Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting. Retrieved from
Bourdieu, P. (1973). L'opinion publique n'existe pas. Les Temps modernes, 318, 12921309.
Bowman, C., & Ambrosini, V. (1997). Perceptions of strategic priorities, consensus and firm performance. Journal of Management Studies, 34, 241258. doi:10.1111/1467–6486.00050
Chambers, S. (2003). Deliberative democratic theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 6, 307326. doi:10.1146/annurev.polisci.6.121901.085538
Clifton, J. (2009). Beyond taxonomies of influence: “Doing” influence and making decisions in management team meetings. Journal of Business Communication, 46, 5779. doi:10.1177/0021943608325749
Deppermann, A. (2011). The study of formulations as a key to an interactional semantics. Human Studies, 34, 115128. doi:10.1007/s10746–011–9187–8
Dess, G. G., & Keats, B. W. (1987). Environmental assessment and organizational performance: An exploratory field study. Academy of Management Proceedings, 1987(1), 2125. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.1987.17533681
DeStephen, R., & Hirokawa, R. Y. (1988). Small group consensus: Stability of group support of the decision, task process, and group relationships. Small Group Research, 19, 227239. doi:10.1177/104649648801900204
Domke, C. (2006). Besprechungen als organisationale Entscheidungskommunikation [Meetings as organizational decision-making communication]. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter.
Eisenberg, E. M. (1984). Ambiguity as strategy in organizational communication. Communication Monographs, 51, 227242. doi:10.1080/03637758409390197
El-Hakim, S. (1978). The structure and dynamics of consensus decision-making. Man, 13, 5571. doi:10.2307/2801065
Ford, C. E. (2008). Women speaking up: Getting and using turns in workplace meetings. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gastil, J. (1993). Democracy in small groups: Participation, decision making, and communication. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publications.
Gelderloos, P. (2006). Consensus: A new handbook for grassroots social, political, and environmental groups. Tucson, AZ: Sharp.
Gibson, D. R. (2008). How the outside gets in: Modeling conversational permeation. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 359384. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.34.040507.134556
Gibson, D. R. (2012). Talk at the brink: Deliberation and decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.
Gilbert, M. (1987). Modelling collective belief. Synthese, 73, 185204. doi:10.1007/BF00485446
Gillespie, A., & Cornish, F. (2010). Intersubjectivity: Towards a dialogical analysis. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40, 1946. doi:10.1111/j.1468–5914.2009.00419.
Graeber, D. (2009). Direct action: An ethnography. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Graham, S. L. (2009). Hospitalk: Politeness and hierarchical structures in interdisciplinary discharge rounds. Journal of Politeness Research, 5(1), 1131. doi:10.1515/JPLR.2009.002
Harvey, J. B. (1974). The Abilene paradox: The management of agreement. Organizational Dynamics, 3, 6380. doi:10.1016/0090–2616(74)90005–9
Haug, C. (2010). Discursive decision-making in meetings of the global justice movements. Cultures and practices (Doctoral dissertation). Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Haug, C. (2013a). Consensus decision-making in meetings as an interactive accomplishment: Silence without silencing? Paper presented at the 29th EGOS Colloquium, 4–6 July 2013, Montreal, Canada.
Haug, C. (2013b). Meetings. In Snow, D. A., della Porta, D., Klandermans, B., & McAdam, D. (Eds.). The Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of social and political movements (pp. 739742). Malden, MA: Wiley.
Haug, C. (2013c). Organizing spaces: Meeting arenas as a social movement infrastructure between organization, network, and institution. Organization Studies, 34, 705732. doi:10.1177/0170840613479232
Haug, C. (2014, June). Unorganized decisions: The significance of consensus in organizing. Paper presented at the workshop, Partial Organization Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE), Sweden.
Hendry, J., & Seidl, D. (2003). The structure and significance of strategic episodes: Social systems theory and the routine practices of strategic change. Journal of Management Studies, 40, 175196. doi:10.1111/1467–6486.00008
Herbst, S. (1992). Surveys in the public sphere: Applying Bourdieu's critique of opinion polls. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 4, 220229. doi:10.1093/ijpor/4.3.220
Heritage, J., & Watson, D. R. (1979). Formulations as conversational objects. In Psathas, G. (Ed.), Everyday language. Studies in ethnomethodology (pp. 123162). New York, NY: Irvington.
Holmes, J. (2006). Gendered talk at work: Constructing gender identity through workplace discourse. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Holmes, J., & Stubbe, M. (2007). Power and politeness in the workplace: A sociolinguistic analysis of talk at work. London, UK: Longman.
Houtkoop-Steenstra, H. (1987). Establishing agreement. An analysis of proposal-acceptance sequences (Doctoral dissertation). Foris, Dordrecht.
Huisman, M. (2001). Decision-making in meetings as talk-in-interaction. International Studies of Management and Organization, 31, 6990.
Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascos. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (2013). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Kangasharju, H. (2002). Alignment in disagreement: Forming oppositional alliances in committee meetings. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 1447. doi:10.1016/S0378–2166(02)00073–5
Kellermanns, F. W., Walter, J., Lechner, C., & Floyd, S. W. (2005). The lack of consensus about strategic consensus: Advancing theory and research. Journal of Management, 31, 719737. doi:10.1177/0149206305279114
Knight, D., Pearce, C. L., Smith, K. G., Olian, J. D., Sims, H. P., Smith, K. A., & Flood, P. (1999). Top management team diversity, group process, and strategic consensus. Strategic Management Journal,20, 445465. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097–0266(199905)20:5<445::AID-SMJ27>3.0.CO;2-V
Köhler, T., Cramton, C. D., & Hinds, P. J. (2012). The meeting genre across cultures: Insights from three German-American collaborations. Small Group Research, 43, 159185. doi:10.1177/1046496411429600
Leach, D. K. (1998). “Why just go for 51%?” Organizational structure in the religious society of friends (CRSO Working Paper No. 567). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Research on Social Organization. Retrieved from
Leach, D. K. (2009). An elusive ‘we’: Anti-dogmatism, democratic practice, and the contradictory identity of the German Autonomen. American Behavioral Scientist, 52, 10421068. doi:10.1177/0002764208327674
Maeckelbergh, M. (2009). The will of the many: How the alterglobalisation movement is changing the face of democracy. London, UK: Pluto Press.
Markóczy, L. (2001). Consensus formation during strategic change. Strategic Management Journal, 22, 10131031. doi: 10.1002/smj.193
Marra, M. (2012). Disagreeing without being disagreeable: Negotiating workplace communities as an outsider. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 15801590. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.06.009
Meier, C. (2002). Arbeitsbesprechungen: Interaktionsstruktur, Interationsdynamik und Konsequenzen einer sozialen Form (2nd ed.). Radolfzell: Verlag für Gesprächsforschung Retrieved from (Original work published 1997)
Moore, A., & O'Doherty, K. (2014). Deliberative voting: Clarifying consent in a consensus process: Deliberative voting. Journal of Political Philosophy, 22, 302319. doi:10.1111/jopp.12028
Mumby, D. K. (1988). Communication and power in organizations: Discourse, ideology, and domination. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Murphy, M. K., Black, N. A., Lamping, D. L., Mckee, C. M., Sanderson, C. F., Ashkam, J., & Marteau, T. (1998). Consensus development methods, and their use in clinical guideline development: A review. Health Technology Assessment, 2. doi:10.3310/hta2030
Myers, F. R. (1986). Reflections on a meeting: Structure, language, and the polity in a small-scale society. American Ethnologist, 13, 430447. doi:10.1525/ae.1986.13.3.02a00020
Newcomb, T. M. (1959). The study of consensus. In Merton, R. K., Broom, L., & Cottrell, S. L. Jr. (Eds.), Sociology today: Problems and prospects (pp. 277292). New York, NY: Basic Books.
Novak, S. (2013). The silence of ministers: Consensus and blame avoidance in the Council of the European Union. Journal of Common Market Studies, 51, 10911107. doi:10.1111/jcms.12063
Nullmeier, F., & Pritzlaff, T. (2009). The implicit normativity of political practices: Analyzing the dynamics and power relations of committee decision-making. Critical Policy Studies, 3, 357374. doi:10.1080/19460171003619758
Nullmeier, F., Pritzlaff, T., Weihe, A. C., & Baumgarten, B. (2008). Entscheiden in Gremien: Von der Videoaufzeichnung zur Prozessanalyse [Decision making in committees: From video recordings to process analysis]. Wiesbaden, Germany: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Owens, D. A., & Sutton, R. I. (2001). Status contests in meetings: Negotiating the informal order. In Turner, M. E (Ed.), Groups at work: Theory and research (pp. 299316). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Polletta, F. (2002). Freedom is an endless meeting: Democracy in American social movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In Atkinson, J. M. & Heritage, J. (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57101). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Pritzlaff, T. (2006). Entscheiden als Handeln: Eine begriffliche Rekonstruktion [Decision making as acting: A conceptual reconstructiom]. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Campus.
Pritzlaff, T. (2007). Erfahrung und gemeinsames Urteilen. In Brodocz, A. (Ed.). Erfahrung als Argument. Zur Renaissance eines ideengeschichtlichen Grundbegriffs (pp. 5771). Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
Rawls, A. W. (1987). The interaction order sui generis: Goffman's contribution to social theory. Sociological Theory, 5, 136149.
Renz, M. A. (2006). The meaning of consensus and blocking for cohousing groups. Small Group Research, 37, 351376. doi:10.1177/1046496406291184
Robert, H. M., Robert, S. C., Robert, H. M., III, Evans, W. J., Honeman, D. H., & Balch, T. J. (2000). Robert's rules of order (Rev. 10th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo.
Rogelberg, S. G., Shanock, L. R., & Scott, C. W. (2012). Wasted time and money in meetings: Increasing return on investment. Small Group Research, 43, 236245. doi:10.1177/1046496411429170
Rothschild, J., & Leach, D. K. (2007). Avoid, talk, or fight: Alternative cultural strategies in the battle against oligarchy in collectivist-democratic organizations. In Cnaan, R. A & Milofsky, C. (Eds.), Handbook of community movements and local organizations (pp. 346361). New York, NY: Springer.
Scheff, T. J. (1967). Toward a sociological model of consensus. American Sociological Review, 32, 3246.
Schwartzman, H. B. (1989). The meeting: Gatherings in organizations and communities. New York, NY: Plenum.
Steinberg, R. H. (2002). In the shadow of law or power? Consensus-based bargaining and outcomes in the GATT/WTO. International Organization, 56, 339374. doi:10.1162/002081802320005504
Steiner, J., & Dorff, R. H. (1980). Decision by interpretation: A new concept of an often overlooked decision-mode. British Journal of Political Science, 10, 113. doi:10.1017/S0007123400001988
Stevanovic, M. (2012). Establishing joint decisions in a dyad. Discourse Studies, 14, 779803. doi:10.1177/1461445612456654
Urfalino, P. (2007). La décision par consensus apparent: Nature et propriétés [Characteristics of decision making by apparent consensus]. Revue européenne des sciences sociales, 45, 4770. doi:10.4000/ress.86
Urfalino, P. (2010). Deciding as bringing deliberation to a close. Social Science Information, 49, 111140. doi:10.1177/0539018409354812
Urfalino, P. (2012). Reasons and preferences in medicine evaluation committees. In Landemore, H & Elster, J. (Eds.), Collective wisdom: Principles and mechanisms (pp. 173203). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UniversityPress.
Urfalino, P. (2014). The rule of non-opposition: Opening up decision-making by consensus. Journal of Political Philosophy, 22, 320341. doi:10.1111/jopp.12037
Wasson, C. (2000). Caution and consensus in American business meetings. Pragmatics, 10, 457481.
Wodak, R. (2013). Analyzing meetings in political and business contexts: Different genres – similar strategies. In Cap, P & Okulska, U. (Eds.). Analyzing genres in political communication. Theory and practice (pp. 187221). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Yngvesson, B. (1978). Leadership and consensus: Decision-making in an egalitarian community. Ethnos, 43, 7390. doi: 10.1080/00141844.1978.9981148