Searchable Online Glossary
This page provides an extensive online glossary of key terms, including selected definitions contributed by the Macmillan English Dictionary.
Use the alphabetical list below to find words beginning with each letter, or the search tool to find a certain word or phrase.
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Abstract - Abstract ideas exist as thoughts in the mind, and are not related to physical objects or real events and actions.
Activity theory - A view of adult learning that envisions learning as a social process whereby individual and group agency and learning occurs through interlocking human activity systems shaped by social norms and a community of practice.
Agenda - All the things that need to be done or that need to be thought about or solved.
Alienation - A feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from other people and from oneself.
Andragogy - The processes associated with the organization and practice of teaching adults; more specifically, various kinds of interaction in facilitating learning situations.
Anomie - A state condition in which social control becomes ineffective as a result of the loss of shared values and a sense of purpose in society.
Anthropological - Relating to the study of human societies, customs, and beliefs.
Anthropologist - Someone who studies human societies, customs, and beliefs.
Appropriation - The process through which, in capitalist workplaces, a proportion of the value produced in work activities – above investment in raw materials, equipment, health benefits, facilities and so on – is retained under the private control of owners, ownership groups and/or investors. A more critical perception of this process sees it as ‘exploitation’ of collective activities of the organization for private use.
Artefacts - The observable symbols and signs of an organization’s culture.
Artisan - A worker who has special skills and training, especially one who makes things.
Assumptions - Things that you consider likely to be true even though no one has told you directly or even though you have no proof.
Assume – To believe that something is true even though no one has told you or even though you have no proof.
Attribute – To attribute something to someone/something is to believe that something is the result of a particular situation, event, or person’s actions.
Authority - The power granted by some form of either active or passive consent that bestows legitimacy.
Behave - To do things in a particular way.
Behaviour - The way that someone or something behaves.
Behaviourism - The belief that the scientific study of people’s minds should be based only on their behaviour.
Bottom-up processing - Perception led predominantly by gathering external sensory data and then working out what they mean
Bounded rationality - Processing limited and imperfect information and satisficing rather than maximizing when choosing between alternatives.
Bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) - Karl Marx’s term for the class comprising those who own and control the means of production.
Brainstorming - A freewheeling, face-to-face meeting where team members generate as many ideas as possible, piggy-back on the ideas of others, and avoid evaluating anyone’s ideas during the idea-generation stage.
Bureaucracy - An organizational model characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labour, explicit rules and procedures, and impersonality in personnel matters.
Bureaucratization - A tendency towards a formal organization with a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labour and an emphasis on written rules.
Business process re-engineering - A radical change of business processes by applying information technology to integrate operations, and maximizing their value-added content.
Capitalism - An economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, from which personal profits can be derived through market competition and without government intervention.
Capitalist modernity - A term used to characterize the stages in the history of social relations dating roughly from the 1780s that is characterized by the constant revolutionizing of production and culture.
Causal attribution - The explanations an individual chooses to use, either internal (about the person) or external (about the situation), and either stable or transitory.
Centralization - The degree to which formal decision authority is held by a small group of people, typically those at the top of the organizational hierarchy.
Ceremonies - Planned events that represent more formal social artefacts than rituals.
Change agent - A generic term for an individual championing or facilitating change in the organization.
Class - The relative location of a person or group within a larger society, based on wealth, power, prestige or other valued resources.
Class conflict - A term for the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class.
Class consciousness - Karl Marx’s term for awareness of a common identity based on a person’s position in the means of production.
Classical conditioning - A view of ‘instrumental’ learning whose adherents assert that the reinforcement is non-contingent on the animal’s behaviour, that is, it is delivered without regard to the animal’s behaviour. By contrast, in instrumental conditioning, the delivery of the reinforcement is contingent – dependent – on what the animal does.
Cognition - In psychology, the process by which you recognize and understand things.
Cognitive - A cognitive process is one that is connected with recognizing and understanding things.
Cohesiveness - Refers to all the positive and negative forces or social pressures that cause individuals to maintain their membership in specific groups.
Commodification - In Marxist theory, the production of goods and services (commodities) for exchange in the marketplace, as opposed to the direct consumption of commodities.
Commodify - To treat something as a pure commodity and not value it in any other way.
Commodity - Something that can be bought and sold, (goods or services).
Communication - The process by which information is transmitted and understood between two or more people.
Communities of practice - Informal groups bound together by shared expertise and a passion for a particular activity or interest.
Competencies - The abilities, values, personality traits and other characteristics of people that lead to a superior performance.
Competitive advantage - The ability of a work organization to add more value for its customers and shareholders than its rivals, and thus gain a position of advantage in the marketplace.
Complexity - The intricate departmental and interpersonal relationships that exist within a work organization.
Concept - An idea of something that exists or an idea for something new.
Conceptualization - The use of experience and imagination to form an idea of what something might be or how it might work.
Concrete - Concrete ideas are based on facts and information.
Configurations - Defining technology as the combination of social and technical factors. Configurations are a complex mix of standardized and locally customized elements that are highly specific to an organization.
Conflict - The process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party.
Conflict of interest - A condition in which the needs of one party (such as an individual or group) run counter to the needs of another.
Conflict perspective - The sociological approach that views groups in society as engaged in a continuous power struggle for the control of scarce resources.
Consideration - The extent to which a leader is likely to nurture job relationships, and encourage mutual trust and respect between the leader and his or her subordinates.
Constructionism - The view that researchers actively construct reality on the basis of their understandings, which are mainly culturally fashioned and shared. It contrasts with realism.
Constructivism - A method of teaching based on the idea that students have to construct their own models of understanding by relating their own experience to what they are learning.
Constructivist approach - An approach to technology that tends not to focus on social or political influences but instead sees technologies as defined strictly in how they are put to use.
Contingency approach - The idea that a particular action may have different consequences in different situations.
Contingency theory - A theory which says organizations should manage themselves according to the situation that they find themselves in, rather than follow one single set of unchanging principles.
Contradictions - Contradictions are said to occur within social systems when the various principles that underlie these social arrangements conflict with each other.
Control - The collection and analysis of information about all aspect of the work organization and the use of comparisons that are either historical and/or based on benchmarking against another business unit.
Convergence thesis - The hypothesis that industrialized societies become increasingly alike in their political, social, cultural and employment characteristics.
Core competency - The underlying core characteristics of an organization’s workforce that result in effective performance and give a competitive advantage to the firm.
Corporate social responsibility - An organization’s moral obligation to its stakeholders.
Corporation - A large-scale organization that has legal powers (such as the ability to enter into contracts and buy and sell property) separate from its individual owner or owners.
Co-variation model - Kelley’s model that uses information about the co-occurrence of a person, behaviour and potential causes to work out an explanation.
Creativity - The capacity to develop an original product, service or idea that makes a socially recognized contribution.
Critic - Someone who considers something carefully and judges what the good and bad aspects of it are.
Critical approach - An approach to technology that tends to focus on how the social and political effects are produced through contestation and negotiation.
Critical realism - A realist epistemology which asserts that the study of human behaviour should be concerned with the identification of the structures that generate that behaviour in order to change it.
Criticize - To consider something carefully and judge what the good and bad aspects of it are.
Cultural relativism - The appreciation that all cultures have intrinsic worth and should be judged and understood on their own terms.
Culture - The knowledge, language, values, customs and material objects that are passed from person to person and from one generation to the next in a human group or society.
Decision making - A conscious process of making choices between one or more alternatives with the intention of moving toward some desired state of affairs.
Deductive approach - Research in which the investigator begins with a theory and then collects information and data to test the theory.
Deindustrialization - A term to describe the decline of the manufacturing sector of the economy.
Delegate - To give part of your work, duties, or responsibilities to someone who is junior to you or to choose someone to do a job for you or to represent you.
Deskilling - A reduction in the proficiency needed to perform a specific job, which leads to a corresponding reduction in the wages paid for that job.
Develop - To become bigger or more successful as a company, business, or industry.
Dialectic/dialectical - Refers to the movement of history through the transcendence of internal contradictions that in turn produce new contradictions, themselves requiring solutions.
Dialogue - A process of conversation among team members in which they learn about each other’s mental models and assumptions, and eventually form a common model for thinking within the team.
Differentiate - To see or show a difference between things.
Disability - A condition in which someone is not able to use a part of their body or brain properly, for example because of an injury.
Discourse - A way of talking about and conceptualizing an issue, presented through concepts, ideas and vocabulary that recur in texts.
Discourse community - A way of talking about and conceptualizing an issue, presented through ideas and concepts, spoken or written, within a social group or community (such as lawyers or physicians).
Discrimination - The actions or practices of dominant group members (or their representatives) that have a harmful impact on the members of a subordinate group.
Distributive justice - Justice based on the principle of fairness of outcomes.
Divergent thinking - Involves reframing a problem in a unique way and generating different approaches to the issue.
Divisional structure - An organizational structure that groups employees around geographical areas, clients or outputs.
Division of labour - The allocation of work tasks to various groups or categories of employee.
Dominate - To control something or someone, often in a negative way, because you have more power or influence.
Dyad - A group consisting of two members.
The economy - The social institution that ensures the maintenance of society through the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.
Effort-to-performance (E→P) expectancy - The individual’s perceived probability that his or her effort will result in a particular level of performance.
Ego - According to Sigmund Freud, the rational, reality-oriented component of personality that imposes restrictions on the innate pleasure-seeking drives of the id.
Emotional labour the effort, planning and control needed to express organizationally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions.
Emotional management - The management of an employee’s his or her own emotions and/or those of others in the workplace.
Empathy - A person’s ability to understand and be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and situations of others.
Empirical approach - Research that attempts to answer questions through a systematic collection and analysis of data.
Empiricism - An approach to the study of social reality that suggests that only knowledge gained through experience and the senses is acceptable.
Employee involvement - The degree to which employees influence how their work is organized and carried out.
Employment equity - A strategy to eliminate the effects of discrimination and to make employment opportunities available to groups who have been excluded.
Empowerment - A psychological concept in which people experience more self-determination, meaning, competence and impact regarding their role in the organization.
Enskilling - Changes in work, often involving technology, that result in an increase in the skill level of workers. The issue of control is often implicated.
Environment - Refers to the broad economic, political, legal and social forces that are present in the minds of the organization’s members and may influence their decision making and constrain their strategic choices, such as the national business system.
Epistemology - A theory of knowledge particularly used to refer to a standpoint on what should pass as acceptable knowledge.
Equate - To consider something to be the same as something else.
Equable - calm, reasonable, and not easily made angry or upset.
Equity - A fair and reasonable way of behaving towards people, so that everyone is treated in the same way.
Equity theory - The theory that explains how people develop perceptions of fairness in the distribution and exchange of resources.
ERG theory - Alderfer’s motivation theory of three instructive needs arranged in a hierarchy, in which people progress to the next higher need when a lower one is fulfilled, and regress to a lower need if unable to fulfil a higher one.
Escalation of commitment - The tendency to allocate more resources to a failing course of action or to repeat an apparently bad decision.
Ethics - The study of moral principles or values that determine whether actions are right or wrong, and outcomes are good or bad.
Ethnic - Someone who belongs to an ethnic group that lives somewhere where most people are from a different race or country.
Ethnocentrism - The tendency to regard one’s own culture and group as the standard, and thus superior, whereas all other groups are seen as inferior.
Evaluation - To think carefully about something before making a judgment about its value, importance, or quality.
Evaluative - Based on careful study of the relative quality or importance of something.
Exchange value - The price at which commodities (including labour) trade on the market.
Existence - The state of being a real or living thing, or of being present in a particular place, time, or situation.
Exit and voice - A concept referring to the basic choice that defines an important part of employees’ experience at work they can either exit (leave) or exercise their ‘voice’ (have a say) in how the workplace is run.
Expectancy theory - A motivation theory based on the idea that work effort is directed toward behaviours that people believe will lead to desired outcomes.
Experiment - An occasion when you test a new idea, method, or activity to find out what the result will be.
Experimentation - The process of testing various ideas, methods, or activities to see what effect they have. Experimental - Using new ideas or methods that are not yet proved to be successful every time.
Explicit knowledge - Knowledge that is ordered and can be communicated between people.
External - Coming from outside a place or organization.
Extrinsic motivator - A wide range of external outcomes or rewards to motivate employees, including bonuses or increases in pay.
Extrinsic reward - A wide range of external outcomes or rewards to motivate employees.
Extroversion - A personality dimension that characterizes people who are outgoing, talkative, sociable and assertive.
Extrovert - Someone who is very confident, lively, and likes social situations.
Factor analysis - A statistical technique used for a large number of variables to explain the pattern of relationships in the data.
Factory system - A relatively large work unit that concentrated people and machines in one building, enabling the specialization of productive functions and, at the same time, a closer supervision of employees than did the pre-industrial putting-out system. Importantly, the factory system gave rise to the need for a new conception of time and organizational behaviour.
False consensus effect - The tendency to over-estimate the degree to which other people will think and behave in the same way as we do.
Feedback - Any information that people receive about the consequences of their behaviour.
Feminism - The belief that all people – both women and men – are equal and that they should be valued equally and have equal rights.
Feminist perspective - The sociological approach that focuses on the significance of gender in understanding and explaining the inequalities that exist between men and women in the household, in the paid labour force and in the realms of politics, law and culture.
Fiedler’s contingency model - Suggests that leader effectiveness depends on whether the person’s natural leadership style is appropriately matched to the situation.
Flexibility - Action in response to global competition, including employees performing a number of tasks (functional flexibility), the employment of part-time and contract workers (numerical flexibility), and performance-related pay (reward flexibility).
Fordism - A term used to describe mass production using assembly-line technology that allowed for greater division of labour and time and motion management, techniques pioneered by the American car manufacturer Henry Ford in the early twentieth century.
Formal channels - A communication process that follows an organization’s chain of command.
Formalization - The degree to which organizations standardize behaviour through rules, procedures, formal training and related mechanisms.
Formal organization - A highly structured group formed for the purpose of completing certain tasks or achieving specific goals.
Formal work group - A group of two or more people formed by organizational decision makers to permit collective action on assigned tasks.
Fragment - A small piece of a larger object that has broken, often into a lot of pieces.
‘Free-rider’ problem - The fear firms have that if they invest in training for workers, these workers might eventually leave the firm for one offering higher wages/benefits, thus losing the firm its investment.
Functional configuration - An organizational structure that organizes employees around specific knowledge or other resources.
Functionalist perspective - The sociological approach that views society as a stable, orderly system.
Functional theory - A sociological perspective emphasizing that human action is governed by relatively stable structures.
Fundamental attribution error - The tendency to favour internal attributions for the behaviour of others but external ones to explain our own behaviour.
Game theory - A social theory premised on the notion that people do what is best for themselves given their resources and circumstances, as in some form of a competitive game.
Gender - The culturally and socially constructed differences between females and males found in the meanings, beliefs and practices associated with ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’.
Gender bias - Behaviour that shows favouritism towards one gender over the other.
Gender identity - A person’s perception of the self as female or male.
Gender role - Attitudes, behaviour and activities that are socially defined as appropriate for each sex and are learned through the socialization process.
Gender socialization - The aspect of socialization that contains specific messages and practices concerning the nature of being female or male in a specific group or society.
Genre - A term to describe the different kinds of writing and reading in the workplace, including, reports, letters and memoranda.
Gestalt - A German word that means form or organization; Gestalt psychology emphasizes organizational processes in learning. The Gestalt slogan, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts,’ draws attention to relationships between the parts.
Glass ceiling - The pattern of employment opportunities that disproportionately limits the achievement of top administrative posts by certain social groups.
Global - Including or affecting the whole world.
Globalist - Someone who believes in the idea of globalism: that political policy should take account of conditions all over the world and not be limited to single geographical regions.
Globalization - When an organization extends its activities to other parts of the world, actively participates in other markets, and competes against organizations located in other countries.
Goals - The immediate or ultimate objectives that employees are trying to accomplish from their work effort.
Goal setting - The process of motivating employees and clarifying their role perceptions by establishing performance objectives.
Grapevine - An unstructured and informal communication network founded on social relationships rather than organizational charts or job descriptions.
Group context - Refers to anything from the specific task a work group is engaged in to the broad environmental forces that are present in the minds of group members and may influence them.
Group dynamics - The systematic study of human behaviour in groups, including the nature of groups, group development, and the interrelations between individuals and groups, other groups and other elements of formal organizations.
Group norms - The unwritten rules and expectations that specify or shape appropriate human behaviour in a work group or team.
Group processes - Refers to group member actions, communications and decision making.
Group structure - A stable pattern of social interaction among work group members created by a role structure and group norms.
Groupthink - The tendency of highly cohesive groups to value consensus at the price of decision quality.
Growth needs - A person’s needs for self-esteem through personal achievement, as well as for self-actualization.
Halo and horns effect - A perceptual error whereby our general impression of a person, usually based on one prominent characteristic, colours the perception of other characteristics of that person.
Hegemony - A conception of power that includes conflict as well as consent and leadership by generating a particular worldview or ‘common sense’ on relevant and appropriate action.
High-context culture - A culturally sanctioned style of communication that assumes high levels of shared knowledge and so uses very concise, sometimes obscure, speech.
High-performance working environment - Describes efforts to manage employment relations and work operations using a set of distinctive ‘better’ human resource practices. These are intended to improve outcomes such as employee commitment, flexibility and cooperation, which in turn enhance the organization’s competitive advantage.
Horizontal or ‘lean’ structure - An integrated system of manufacturing, originally developed by
Horizontal tension - Tensions and contradictions that emerge in terms of people’s participation in group endeavours irrespective of hierarchical institutional relationships.
HRM cycle - An analytical framework that diagrammatically connects human resource selection, appraisal, development and rewards to organizational performance.
Human capital - The view that people are worth investing in as a form of capital, that people’s performance and the results achieved can be considered as a return on investment and assessed in terms of cost and benefits.
Human relations - A school of management thought that emphasizes the importance of social processes in the organization.
Human resource management - An approach to managing employment relations which emphasizes that leveraging people’s capabilities is important to achieving competitive advantage.
Human rights - The conditions and treatment expected for all human beings.
Hypotheses - Statements making empirically testable declarations that certain variables and their corresponding measure are related in a specific way proposed by theory.
Hypothesis - In search studies, a tentative statement of the relationship between two or more concepts or variables.
Id - Sigmund Freud’s term for the component of personality that includes all of the individual’s basic biological drives and needs that demand immediate gratification.
Ideal type - An abstract model that describes the recurring characteristics of some phenomenon.
Ideology - A term with multiple uses, but in particular referring to perceptions of reality as distorted by class interests, and the ideas, legal arrangements and culture that arise from class relations (a term taken from Marx).
Idiographic approach - An approach to explanation in which we seek to explain the relationships among variables within a particular case or event; it contrasts with nomothetic analysis.
Impression management - The process of trying to control or influence the impressions of oneself that other people form.
Increment - One in a series of increases in amount or value, especially a regular increase in pay.
Incremental - Increasing gradually.
Individualism- The extent to which a person values independence and personal uniqueness.
Industrial democracy - A broad term used to describe a range of programmes, processes and social institutions. designed to provide greater employee involvement and influence in the decision-making process, and to exchange ideas on how to improve working conditions and product and service quality in the workplace.
Industrial Revolution The relatively rapid economic transformation that began in
Inequality - A situation in which people are not equal because some groups have more opportunities, power, money etc. than others.
Influence - The effect that a person or thing has on someone’s decisions, opinions, or behaviour or on the way something happens.
Informal channels - A communication process that follows unofficial means of communication, sometimes called ‘the grapevine’, usually based on social relations in which employees talk about work.
Informal group - Two or more people who form a unifying relationship around personal rather than organizational goals.
Informal structure - A term used to describe the aspect of organizational life in which participants’ day-to-day activities. and interactions ignore, bypass or do not correspond with the official rules and procedures of the bureaucracy.
Information and communications technology (ICT) - Information and communication technology: a school subject that deals with computers, electronics, and telecommunications.
Information overload - A situation in which the receiver becomes overwhelmed by the information that needs to be processed. It may be caused by the quantity of the information to be processed, the speed at which the information presents itself or the complexity of the information to be processed.
Information structure - The way in which information and data are organized, stored, and shared across several platforms on the virtual network.
In-groups - Groups to which someone perceives he or she belongs, which he or she accordingly evaluates favourably.
Initiating - Part of a behavioural theory of leadership that describes the degree to which a leader defines and structures. her or his own role and the roles of followers towards attainment of the group’s assigned goals.
Initiative - The ability to decide in an independent way what to do and when to do it.
Input - The materials, time and energy that are transformed, through a system, into an output product or service.
Instrumentalist or technocratic approach - Approaches to technology that are uncritical of its broader social, political and economic significance, viewing technologies as autonomous and positive.
Instrumentality - A term associated with process theories of motivation, referring to an individual’s perceived probability that good performance will result in valued outcomes or rewards, measured on a scale from 0 (no chance) to 1 (certainty).
Integrate - To connect or combine two or more things so that together they form an effective unit or system.
Integrative approach - Explains the effectiveness of a leader in terms of influence on the way the followers view themselves and interpret the context and events around them.
Intellectual capital - The sum of an organization’s human capital, structural capital and relationship capital.
Interactionism - What people do when they are in one another’s presence, for example in a work group or team.
International human resource management - Refers to all the human resource management policies and practices used to manage people in companies operating in more than one country.
Interpretivism - The view held in many qualitative studies that reality comes from shared meaning among people in that environment.
Intrinsic motivator - A wide range of motivation interventions in the workplace, from inner satisfaction from following some action (such as recognition by n employer or co-workers) to intrinsic pleasures derived from an activity (such as playing a musical instrument for pleasure).
Intrinsic reward- Inner satisfaction following some action (such as recognition by an employer or co-workers) or intrinsic pleasures derived from an activity (such as playing a musical instrument for pleasure).
Introversion - A personality dimension that characterizes people who are territorial and solitary.
Introvert - Someone who tends to concentrate on their own thoughts and feelings rather than communicating with other people.
Intuition - The ability to know when a problem or opportunity exists and select the best course of action without conscious reasoning.
Invisible structures - The pattern of relationships within a group that develops according to the nature of the task being done, and that changes to match the different requirements of new tasks.
Job characteristics model - A job design model that relates the motivational properties of jobs to specific personal and organizational consequences of those properties.
Job design - The process of assigning tasks to a job, including the interdependency of those tasks with other jobs.
Job enlargement - Increasing the number of tasks employees perform in their jobs.
Job enrichment - Employees are given more responsibility for scheduling, coordinating and planning their own work.
Job rotation - The practice of moving employees from one job to another.
Job satisfaction - A person’s attitude regarding his or her job and work content.
Justice - Treatment of people that is fair and morally right.
Knowledge work - Paid work that is of an intellectual nature, non-repetitive and result-oriented, engages scientific and/or artistic knowledge, and demands continuous learning and creativity.
Knowledge worker - A worker who depends on her or his skills, knowledge and judgement established through additional training and/or schooling.
Labour power - The potential gap between a worker’s capacity or potential to work and its exercise.
Labour process - The process whereby labour is applied to materials and technology to produce goods and services that can be sold in the market as commodities. The term is typically applied to the distinctive labour processes of capitalism in which owners/managers design, control and monitor work tasks so as to maximize the extraction of surplus value from the labour activity of workers.
Language - A system of symbols that express ideas and enable people to think and communicate with one another.
Leader - Someone who is responsible for or in control of a group, organization, country etc.
Leadership - Influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.
Lean structure - An integrated system of manufacturing, originally developed by
Learner - Someone who is learning something.
Learning - The processes of constructing new knowledge and its ongoing reinforcement.
Learning contract - A learning plan that links an organization’s competitive strategy with an individual’s key learning objectives. It enumerates the learning and/or competencies that are expected to be demonstrated at some point in the future.
Learning cycle - A view of adult learning that emphasizes learning as a continuous process.
Least preferred co-worker theory (LPC) - A way of evaluating someone's leadership style by looking at their answers to questions about the colleague with whom they have worked least well. Leaders are categorized on a scale which goes from human relations orientation to task orientation.
Legitimacy - A term describing agreement with the rights and responsibilities associated with a position, social values, system and so on.
Leverage - The use and exploitation by an employer of his or her resources, particularly human resources, to their full extent. The term is often linked to the resource-based human resource management model.
Life chances - Weber’s term for the extent to which persons have access to important scarce resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education and employment.
Life-long learning - The belief that adults should be encouraged, and given the opportunity, to learn either formally in education institutions or informally on or off the job.
Linguistic relativity - The theory that the language we speak has such a fundamental influence on the way we interpret the world that we think differently from those who speak a different language.
Locus of control - A personality trait referring to the extent to which people believe events are within their control.
Looking-glass self - Cooley’s term for the way in which a person’s sense of self is derived from the perceptions of others
Low-context culture - A culturally sanctioned style of communication that assumes low levels of shared knowledge and so uses verbally explicit speech.
Luddites - A group of textile workers, led by General Ned Ludd in early nineteenth-century England, who systematically smashed new workplace technologies because they directly undermined their working knowledge and economic interests as workers.
Macho - Behaving in a way traditionally considered typical of a man, for example by being strong and willing to fight, and by hiding your feelings.
Macro - Large, or considered in a general way.
Macropolitics - Behaviours which are motivated by ideologies and influence the way in which organisations can introduce structure and exercise control.
Macrostructures - Overarching patterns of social relations that lie outside and above a person’s circle of intimates and acquaintances.
Manager - Someone whose job is to organize and control the work of a business or organization or a part of it.
Managerial - Relating to the job of a manager, especially in a company.
Management by objectives - A participative goal-setting process in which organizational objectives are cascaded down to work units and individual employees.
‘Matching’ model - A human resources strategy that seeks to ‘fit’ or align the organization’s internal human resources strategy with its external competitive strategy.
Matrix structure - A type of departmentalization that overlays a divisionalized structure (typically a project team) with a functional structure.
McDonaldization (also known as ‘McWork’ or ‘McJobs’) - A term used to symbolize the new realities of corporate-driven globalization that engulf young people in the twenty-first century, including simple work patterns, electronic controls, low pay and part-time and temporary employment.
Means of production - An analytical construct that contains the forces of production and the relations of production, which, when combined, define the socioeconomic character of a society.
Mechanical solidarity - A term to describe the social cohesion that exists in pre-industrial societies, in which there is a minimal division of labour and people feel united by shared values and common social bonds.
Mechanistic organization - An organizational structure with a narrow span of control and high degrees of formalization and centralization.
Media richness - Refers to the number of channels of contact afforded by a communication medium, so, for example, face-to-face interaction would be at the high end of media richness, and a memorandum would fall at the low end of media richness.
Micro - Extremely small, or considered in a specific, focused way.
Micropolitics - Behaviours which establish power relationships between people at an individual level.
Microstructures - The patterns of relatively intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction.
Mores - Norms that are widely observed and have great moral significance.
Motivation - The forces within a person that affect his or her direction, intensity and persistence of voluntary behaviour.
Motivational - Having the effect of motivating a person or a group of people.
Multidisciplinary - Involving several different subjects of study or areas of professional activity.
Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - A personality test that measures personality traits.
Nation - A country that has its own land and government.
Needs - Deficiencies that energize or trigger behaviours to satisfy those needs.
Needs hierarchy theory - Maslow’s motivation theory of five instinctive needs arranged in a hierarchy, whereby people are motivated to fulfill a higher need as a lower one becomes gratified.
Negative reinforcement - Occurs when the removal or avoidance of a consequence increases or maintains the frequency or future probability of a behaviour.
Negotiation - Occurs whenever two or more conflicting parties attempt to resolve their divergent goals by redefining the terms of their interdependence.
Neo-Fordism/post-Fordism - The development from mass production assembly lines to more flexible manufacturing processes.
Networking - Cultivating social relationships with others to accomplish one’s goals.
Network structure - A set of strategic alliances that an organization creates with suppliers, distributors and manufacturers to produce and market a product. Members of the network work together on a long-term basis to find new ways to improve efficiency and increase the quality of their products.
Nominal - Used about something that is officially described in a particular way when it is not really true or correct.
Nomothetic approach - An approach to explanation in which we seek to identify relationships between variables across many cases.
Normative - Concerning rules, or forcing people to obey rules.
Norms - The informal rules and expectations that groups establish to regulate the behaviour of their members.
Objectification - Karl Marx’s term to describe the action of human labour on resources to produce a commodity, which under the control of the capitalist remains divorced from and opposed to the direct producer.
Objective - Something that you plan to achieve, especially in business or work.
Objectivism - An ontological position which asserts that the meaning of social phenomena has an existence independent of individuals; compare this with constructionism.
Occupation - A category of jobs that involve similar activities at different work sites.
Ontology - A theory of whether social entities such as organizations can and should be considered as objective entities with a reality external to the specific social actors, or as social constructions built up from the perceptions and behaviour of these actors.
Open systems - Organizations that take their sustenance from the environment, and in turn affect that environment through their output.
Operant conditioning - A technique for associating a response or behaviour with a consequence.
Organic organization - An organizational structure with a wide span of control, little formalization and decentralized decision making.
Organic solidarity - A term for the social cohesion that exists in industrial (and perhaps post-industrial) societies, in which people perform very specialized tasks and feel united by their mutual dependence.
Organization - A group of people who have a particular shared purpose or interest, for example a business, political party or charity.
Organization chart - A diagram showing the grouping of activities and people within a formal organization to achieve the goals of the organization effectively.
Organizational behaviour - The systematic study of formal organizations and of what people think, feel and do in and around organizations.
Organizational commitment - The employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with and involvement in a particular organization.
Organizational climate - The view of an organization that is shared by all the people within it.
Organizational culture - The basic pattern of shared assumptions, values and beliefs governing the way employees in an organization think about and act on problems and opportunities.
Organizational design - The process of creating and modifying organizational structures.
Organizational justice - In organizational behaviour literature, the perceived fairness of outcomes, procedures and the treatment of individuals.
Organizational learning - The knowledge management process in which organizations acquire, share and use knowledge to succeed.
Organizational politics - Behaviours that others perceive as self-serving tactics for personal gain at the expense of other people and possibly the organization.
Organizational structure - The formal reporting relationships, groups, departments and systems of the organization.
Organization chart - A diagram showing the grouping of activities and people within a formal organization to achieve the goals of the organization efficiently.
Organize - To put things into a sensible order or into a system in which all parts work well together.
Orientation - The particular interests, aims, and emphasis of a business, political group, or other organization.
Outcomes - The final result of a process, meeting, activity etc.
Out-groups - Groups to which someone perceives he or she does not belong, which he or she accordingly evaluates unfavourably.
Output - The amount of something that a person, organization, system etc produces.
Paradigm - A term used to describe a cluster of beliefs that dictates for researchers in a particular discipline what should be studied, how research should be conducted and how the results should be interpreted.
Paradox - A person, thing, or situation that is unusual because it has features or qualities that do not normally exist together.
Participatory design - An approach to design and implementation of technologies that is premised on user participation.
Paternalistic - Belonging to a system in which authority figures offer help and advice to people, but also control them by not letting them make their own decisions and choices.
Path–goal leadership theory - A contingency theory of leadership based on the expectancy theory of motivation, which relates several leadership styles to specific employee and situational contingencies.
Patriarchy - A hierarchical system of social organization in which cultural, political and economic structures are controlled by men.
Peer group - A group of people who are linked by common interests, equal social position and (usually) similar age. Perceived self-efficacy - A person’s belief in his or her capacity to achieve something.
Perception - The process of selecting, organizing and interpreting information in order to make sense of the world around us.
Perceptual bias - An automatic tendency to attend to certain cues that do not necessarily support good judgements. Perceptual set - Describes what happens when we get stuck in a particular mode of perceiving and responding to things based on what has gone before.
Performance-to-outcome (P→O) expectancy - The perceived probability that a specific behaviour or performance level will lead to specific outcomes.
Personal identity - The ongoing process of self-development through which we construct a unique sense of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.
Personality - The relatively stable pattern of behaviours and consistent internal states that explain a person’s behavioural tendencies.
Perspective - An overall approach to or viewpoint on some subject.
Phenomenological approach - A philosophy concerned with how researchers make sense of the world around them, and whose adherents believe that the social researcher must ‘get inside people’s heads’ to understand how they perceive and interpret the world.
Phlegmatic - Able to be calm in a dangerous or frightening situation.
Political gaming - A common practice in organizations, which has proven challenging to research, that involves recognition and organizational action based on existing factions, coalitions and cliques that make up any organization in order to engage in intentional acts of influence to enhance or protect oneself or one’s group or department.
Political science - The study of politics and the way that political power is used in a country.
Political theory model - An approach to understanding decision making whose adherents assert that formal organizations comprise groups that have separate interests, goals and values, and in which power and influence are needed in order to reach decisions.
Positive reinforcement - Occurs when the introduction of a consequence increases or maintains the frequency or future probability of a behaviour.
Positivism - A view held in quantitative research in which reality exists independently of the perceptions and interpretations of people; a belief that the world can best be understood through scientific inquiry.
Post-Fordism - A strategy of organizing work and people that attempted to address the limitations of Fordism, with an increased focus on the social needs of workers. The approach advocated the use of job enrichment techniques to achieve greater job satisfaction.
Post-industrial economy - An economy that is based on the provision of services rather than goods.
Postmodernism - The sociological approach that attempts to explain social life in modern societies that are characterized by post-industrialization, consumerism and global communications.
Power - A term defined in multiple ways, involving cultural values, authority, influence and coercion as well as control over the distribution of symbolic and material resources. At its broadest, power is defined as a social system that imparts patterned meaning.
Power–influence approach - An approach that examines processes of influence between leaders and followers, and explains leadership effectiveness in terms of the amount and type of power possessed by an organizational leader and how that power is exercised.
Pre-industrial - Relating to the lifestyle and methods of work that existed before the industrial revolution.
Primacy effect - A perceptual error in which we quickly form an opinion of people based on the first information we receive about them.
Procedural justice - Justice based on the principle of fairness of the procedures employed to achieve outcomes.
Proletariat (or working class) - Karl Marx’s term for those who must sell their labour because they have no other means of earning a livelihood.
Psychodynamic - Relating to the way in which conscious and unconscious processes interact and influence behaviour and attitudes.
Psychological climate - The psychological well-being of individuals, organizations and communities and how this may fluctuate over time.
Psychological contract - An individual’s beliefs about the terms and conditions of a reciprocal exchange agreement between that person and another party.
Psychology - The study of the mind and how it affects behaviour.
Psychometric - Measuring a person’s ability to think, especially in order to judge how suitable they are for a particular job.
Putting-out system - A pre-industrial, home-based form of production in which the dispersed productive functions were coordinated by an entrepreneur.
Qualitative research - Refers to the gathering and sorting of information through a variety of techniques, including interviews, focus groups and observations, and inductive theorizing.
Quantitative research - Refers to research methods that emphasize numerical precision and deductive theorizing.
Quality of working life (QWL) - A measure of the quality of an employee's environment, which takes into account factors such as the variety of tasks involved, importance of tasks, ability to work independently, pay, and working hours.
Race - A group of people who are similar because they speak the same language or have the same history or customs or because they have the same skin colour or other physical features.
Racism - A way of behaving or thinking that shows that you do not like or respect people who belong to races that are different from your own and that you believe your race is better than others.
Rationality - The process by which traditional methods of social organization, characterized by informality and spontaneity, are gradually replaced by efficiently administered formal rules and procedures – bureaucracy.
Realism - The idea that a reality exists out there independently of what and how researchers think about it. It contrasts with constructionism.
Recency effect - A perceptual error in which the most recent information dominates our perception of others.
Reflexive learning - A view of adult learning that emphasizes learning through self-reflection.
Relationship behaviour - Focuses on manager’s activities that show concern for followers, look after subordinates’ welfare and nurture supportive relationships with followers, as opposed to behaviours that concentrate on completing tasks.
Reliability - In sociological research, the extent to which a study or research instrument yields consistent results.
Resource-based model - A human resources strategy that views employees as an asset as opposed to a cost, and assumes that the sum of people’s knowledge and distinctive competencies has the potential to serve as a source of competitive advantage.
Rhetoric - The management of symbols (such as a language) in order to encourage and coordinate social action.
Rhetorical sensitivity - The tendency for a speaker to adapt her or his messages to audiences to allow for the level knowledge, ability level, mood or beliefs of the listener.
Rituals - The programmed routines of daily organizational life that dramatize the organization’s culture.
Role - A set of behaviours that people are expected to perform because they hold certain positions in a team and organization.
Role ambiguity - Uncertainty about job duties, performance expectations, level of authority and other job conditions.
Role conflict - Conflict that occurs when people face competing demands.
Role perceptions - A person’s beliefs about what behaviours are appropriate or necessary in a particular situation, including the specific tasks that make up the job, their relative importance, and the preferred behaviours to accomplish those tasks.
Sanguine - Confident and hopeful about what might happen, especially in a difficult situation.
Satisficing - Selecting a solution that is satisfactory, or ‘good enough’, rather than optimal or ‘the best’.
Schema - A set of interrelated mental processes that enable us to make sense of something on the basis of limited information.
Scientific management - This involves systematically partitioning work into its smallest elements and standardizing tasks to achieve maximum efficiency.
Selective attention - The ability of someone to focus on only some of the sensory stimuli that reach them.
Self-actualization - A term associated with Maslow’s theory of motivation, referring to the desire for personal fulfilment, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
Self-efficacy - The beliefs people have about their ability to perform specific situational task(s) successfully.
Self-fulfilling prophecy - An expectation about a situation that of itself causes what is anticipated to actually happen.
Self-managed work teams - Cross-functional work groups organized around work processes that complete an entire piece of work requiring several interdependent tasks, and that have substantial autonomy over the execution of those tasks.
Semiotics - The systematic study of the signs and symbols used in communications.
Sex - A term used to describe the biological and anatomical differences between females and males.
Sexuality - Sexual feelings, attitudes, and activities.
Sexual harassment - The unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for its victims.
Situated learning - An approach that views adult learning as a process of enculturation, where people consciously and subconsciously construct new knowledge from the actions, processes, behaviour and context in which they find themselves.
Skill variety - The extent to which employees must use different skills and talents to perform tasks in their job.
Social capital - The value of relationships between people, embedded in network links that facilitate trust and communication vital to overall organizational performance.
Social class - One of the categories into which societies are divided, according to sociologists, historians and others. Key factors in deciding a person's social class include type of employment, income, and level of educational attainment.
Social identity - The perception of a ‘sameness’ or ‘belongingness’ to a human collective with common values, goals or experiences.
Social identity theory - The theory concerned with how we categorize and understand the kind of person we are in relation to others.
Social interaction - The process by which people act toward or respond to other people.
Socialization - The life-long process of social interaction through which individuals acquire a self-identity and the physical, mental and social skills needed for survival in society.
Social-learning theory - A theory stating that much learning occurs by observing others and then modelling the behaviours that lead to favourable outcomes and avoiding the behaviours that lead to punishing consequences.
Social solidarity - The state of having shared beliefs and values among members of a social group, along with intense and frequent interaction among group members.
Social structure The stable pattern of social relationships that exist within a particular group or society.
Society - A large social grouping that shares the same geographical territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.
Sociology - The systematic study of human society and social interaction.
Solidering - The evasion of work or duty.
Span of control the number of people directly reporting to the next level in the organizational hierarchy.
Specialization the allocation of work tasks to categories of employee or groups. Also known as division of labour.
Stakeholder - A person or company that has invested in a business and owns part of it.
Status - The social ranking of people; the position an individual occupies in society or in a social group or work organization.
Stereotyping - The process of assigning traits to people based on their membership of a social category.
Sticky floor - The pattern of employment opportunities that disproportionately concentrates certain social groups at lower-level jobs.
Stimulus - Anything that encourages something to happen, develop, or improve.
Stimulate - To encourage something to happen, develop, or improve.
Strategy - A plan or method for achieving something, especially over a long period of time.
Strategic business unit - A term to describe corporate development that divides the corporation’s operations into strategic business units, which allows comparisons between each strategic business unit. According to advocates, corporate managers are better able to determine whether they need to change the mix of businesses in their portfolio.
Strategic choice - The idea that an organization interacts with its environment rather being totally determined by it.
Strategic human resource management - The process of linking the human resource function with the strategic objectives of the organization in order to improve performance.
Strategy - The long-term planning and decision-making activities undertaken by managers that are related to meeting organizational goals.
Structuration - A concept focusing on balancing the dichotomies of agency, or human freedom, and social organization, or structures where individual choices are seen as partially constrained, but they remain choices nonetheless.
Subculture - A group of people whose beliefs and ways of behaving make them different from the rest of society.
Substantive approach - An approach that tends to see technologies as producing negative social and political effects.
Superego - Sigmund Freud’s term for the human conscience, consisting of the moral and ethical aspects of personality.
Surplus value - The portion of the working day during which workers produce value that is appropriated by the capitalist.
Survey - A research method in which a number of respondents are asked identical questions through a systematic questionnaire or interview.
Symbol - Someone or something that represents a particular idea or quality.
Symbolic - Used or considered as a symbol.
Symbolism - The use of symbols to represent a thing, idea, or quality.
Symbolic interactionism - The sociological approach that views society as the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups.
Systems theory - A set of theories based on the assumption that social entities, such as work organizations, can be viewed as if they were selfregulating bodies exploiting resources from their environment (inputs) and transforming the resources (exchanging and processing) to provide goods and services (outputs) in order to survive.
Taboos - Mores so strong their violation is considered to be extremely offensive, unmentionable and even criminal.
Tacit knowledge - Knowledge embedded in our actions and ways of thinking, and transmitted only through observation and experience.
Task behaviour - Focuses on the degree to which a leader emphasizes the importance of assigning followers to tasks, and maintaining standards – in other words, ‘getting things done’, as opposed to behaviours that nurture supportive relationships.
Task identity - The degree to which a job requires the completion of a whole or an identifiable piece of work.
Task significance - The degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the organization and/or larger society.
Taylorism - A process of determining the division of work into its smallest possible skill elements, and how the process of completing each task can be standardized to achieve maximum efficiency. Also referred to as scientific management.
Teams - Groups of two or more people who interact and influence each other, are mutually accountable for achieving common objectives, and perceive themselves as a social entity within an organization.
Technocrat - A scientist or other technical expert with a high position in industry or government.
Technology - The means by which organizations transform inputs into outputs, or rather the mediation of human action. This includes mediation by tools and machines as well as rules, social convention, ideologies and discourses.
Technology agreements - Agreements with legal standing that set in place rules for negotiation over technological selection, adoption and implementation.
Theory - A set of logically interrelated statements that attempts to describe, explain and (occasionally) predict social events. A general set of propositions that describes interrelationships among several concepts.
Top-down processing - Perception led predominantly by existing knowledge and expectations rather than by external sensory data.
Trade union - An organization whose purpose is to represent the collective interest of workers.
Transformational learning - A view that adult learning involving self reflection can lead to a transformation of consciousness, new visions and new courses of action.
Upskilling - Extra training given to workers to make them better at their job.
Urbanization - The process by which an increasing proportion of a population lives in cities rather than in rural areas.
Validity - In sociological research, the extent to which a study or research instrument accurately measures what it is supposed to measure.
Value - A collective idea about what is right or wrong, good or bad, and desirable or undesirable in a particular culture. Values - Stable, long-lasting beliefs about what is important in a variety of situations.
Verstehen - A method of understanding human behaviour by situating it in the context of an individual’s or actor’s meaning.
Vertical tension - Tensions and contradictions that emerge in terms of hierarchical institutional relationships.
‘Virtual’ organization - An organization composed of people who are connected by video-teleconferences, the Internet and computer-aided design systems, and who may rarely, if ever, meet face to face.
Visible structures - The pattern of relationships within a group that exists when every member of the group has a predefined role.
Will to power - The notion that people are inherently driven to develop and expand power and control in their environments.
Work ethic - A set of values that stresses the importance of work to the identity and sense of worth of the individual and encourages an attitude of diligence in the mind of the people.
Work group - Two or more employees in face-to-face interaction, each aware of their positive interdependence as they endeavour to achieve mutual work-related goals.
Work–life balance - The interplay between working life, the family and the community, in terms of both time and space.
Work organization - A deliberately formed social group in which people, technology and resources are deliberately co-coordinated through formalized roles and relationships to achieve a division of labour designed to attain a specific set of objectives efficiently. It is also known as formal organization.
Work orientation - An attitude towards work that constitutes a broad disposition towards certain kinds of paid work.
Workplace wellness - All human resource and health and safety programmes, and interventions that can assist an employee to live at her or his highest possible level as a whole person, including the physical, social, emotional and spiritual, and expand an employee’s potential to live and work more effectively.