Introduction to work and organizational behaviour

by John Bratton Also by this author


Click on the letter links below to access definitions of all key terms from the textbook.

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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

agency: often used as a substitute for ‘action’, but with a wider meaning in sociology. Here, it emphasizes the undetermined nature of human action, as opposed to the alleged determinism of structural theories. This wider meaning highlights the psychological and socially constructed make-up of the actor, and the capacity for voluntary action

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 sense of purpose in society

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 an ‘exploitation’ of the organization’s collective activities for private use

artefacts: the observable symbols and signs of an organization’s culture

authority: the power granted by some form of either active or passive consent that bestows legitimacy


bottom-up processing: perception led predominantly by gathering externalsensory 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-generating stage

bureaucracy: an organizational model characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labour, explicit rules and procedures, and an impersonal approach to 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 refer to the period 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, which are 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: the activities of an individual(s) that are directed towards accomplishing a change

charismatic leadership: a leadership style that emphasizes symbolic leader behaviour, visionary and inspirational messages, an appeal to values and self-sacrifice

class conflict: a term for the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class

class consciousness: Karl Marx’s term for the 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

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

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

configurations: defines 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 the result of a shared culture. It contrasts with realism

constructionist model: maintains that feelings are socially constructed and do not apply to inner states, but are cultural meanings given to emotions

constructivist approach: an approach to technology that tends not to focus on social or political influences, but instead sees technologies as defined strictly by how they are put to use

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 aspects of the work organization and the use of comparisons that are either historical and/or based on benchmarking against another business unit

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 cooccurrence of a person, a 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

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 identifying the structures that generate that behaviour in order to change it

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 towards 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

Delphi technique: a structured team decision-making process of systematically pooling the collective knowledge of experts on a particular subject to make decisions, predict the future or identify opposing views

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

dialectic: 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

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)

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

dyad: a group consisting of two members


effort-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 intelligence: the personal faculty of knowing and managing one’s own emotions, perceiving and understanding emotions in others and handling relationships

emotional labour: the effort, planning and control needed to express organizationally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions

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 suggesting 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

environment: refers to the broad economic, political, legal and social forces, such as a nation’s business system, that are present in the minds of the organization’s members and may influence their decision making and constrain their strategic choices

epistemology: a theory of knowledge particularly used to refer to a standpoint on what should pass as acceptable knowledge

equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities

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 suggests that more than one need may motivate simultaneously, and, contrary to Maslow’s theory, that when a higher order need is obstructed, the desire to satisfy a lower need increases

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

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

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

explicit knowledge: knowledge that is ordered and can be communicated between people

extrinsic motivator: a wide range of external outcomes or rewards to motivate employees, including bonuses or increases in pay

extrinsic rewards: 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



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 overestimate the degree to which other people 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)

flexible specialization: a competitive strategy whereby a company invests in multipurpose equipment and employs and trains its workforce to be multiskilled, in order to adjust quickly to a fast-changing business environment

force-field analysis: an approach drawing on the physical (material) forces of nature, with the premise that, in any organizational setting, there are forces that push for change and forces that resist or act against change

Fordism: a term used to describe mass production using assembly line technology that allowed for a 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

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 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

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 members’ 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 both conflict as well as consent and leadership by generating a particular worldview or ‘common sense’ on relevant and appropriate action; a term derived from Karl Marx’s historical materialism and his theory of social classes. According to Marx, each ruling class leads and dominates over others, which includes the dissemination of ideas

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 Toyota in Japan. The emphasis is on flexibility and teamwork

horizontal tensions: 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 relations: a school of management thought that emphasizes the importance of social processes in the organization

human rights: the conditions and treatment expected for all human beings

hypotheses: statements making empirically testable declarations that certain variables and their corresponding measures are related in a specific way proposed by theory

hypothesis: in research 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

in-groups: groups to which someone perceives he or she belongs, which he or she accordingly evaluates favourably

individualism: the extent to which a person values independence and personal uniqueness

inductive approach: the researcher begins with data collection and observations and then data are used to develop theory

industrial democracy: a broad term used to describe a range of programmes, processes and social institutions designed to provide greater employee involvement and participation 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 Britain in the 1780s. It involved a factory- and technology-driven shift from agriculture and small cottage-based manufacturing to manufacturing industries, and the consequences of that shift for virtually all human activities

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 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

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 attaining the group’s assigned goals

innovation: the adoption of any process, thinking, product or service that is new to a particular organization or subsystem

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 that refers 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)

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

interactionist model: interprets emotions as an property that emerges from the interaction between the body and the environment

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 after following some action (such as recognition by an employer or co-workers) to intrinsic pleasures derived from an activity (such as playing a musical instrument for pleasure)

intrinsic rewards: 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

intuition: the ability to know when a problem or opportunity exists and to select the best course of action without conscious reasoning


job characteristics model: a job design model that relates the motivational properties of jobs to the 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


knowledge management: the capture of the individual’s and group’s tacit knowledge and learning, and its conversion into explicit knowledge so that it can be shared with, and built on by, others in the organization

knowledge work: paid work that is of an intellectual nature, is non-repetitive and results 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 their actual work

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 workers’ labour activity

language: a system of symbols that expresses ideas and enables people to think and communicate with one another

leadership: influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members

learning: the process of the construction and ongoing reinforcement of new knowledge

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

learning organization: a metaphor representing an ideal of wholeorganization learning on the part of all employees, and the use of learning to create value and transform the organization; an organization that facilitates its employees’ learning as a strategy for continuous planned change

legitimacy: a term describing agreement with the rights and responsibilities associated with a position, social values, a system and so on life chances: Weber’s term for the extent to which people have access to important scarce resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education and employment

lifelong 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 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


macrostructures: overarching patterns of social relations that lie outside and above a person’s circle of intimates and acquaintances

management by objectives: a participative goal-setting process in which organizational objectives are cascaded down to work units and individual employees

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

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

Myers–Briggs Type Indicator: a personality test that measures personality traits


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 fulfil 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-liberalism: a theory of political economics that proposes free markets (laissez-faire), free trade, deregulation, privatization, shrinkage of the state, a hollowing out of social provision and low taxes to advance the role of private enterprise in the economy

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

nomothetic approach: an approach to explanation in which we seek to identify relationships between variables across many cases

normative order: a concept most often found in functionalist theory. It is any system of social rules and shared expectations governing a particular social situation


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

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 individuals who form part of them, or as social constructions built up from the perceptions and behaviour of these individuals

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

organizational behaviour: the systematic study of formal organizations and of what people think, feel and do in and around organizations

organizational chart: a diagram showing the grouping of activities and people within a formal organization to achieve the goals of the
organization efficiently

organizational climate: describes the dimensions of the organization that can be measured with relative precision, such as its structure and leadership

organizational commitment: the employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with and involvement in a particular organization

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 development: in this, change agents use the principles and practices of behavioural science to assist the change effort in order to increase employee and organizational effectiveness

organizational learning: a metaphor representing an organizational culture in which learning is continuous and embedded in what and how employees work, and in the systems that connect the parts together

organizational structure: the formal reporting relationships, groups, departments and systems of the organization

out-groups: groups to which someone perceives he or she does not belong, which he or she accordingly evaluates unfavourably

outsourcing: contracting with external providers to supply the organization with the products or back-office data processes that were previously supplied internally


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

participatory design: an approach to the design and implementation of technologies that is premised on user participation

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

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–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: a relatively enduring pattern of thinking, feeling and acting that characterizes a person’s unique response to her or his environment

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. Adherents to this theory believe that the social researcher must ‘get inside people’s heads’ to understand how they perceive and interpret the world

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 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 psychology: a branch of psychology that focuses on the positive, including positive state, strengths and happiness in an individual’s personal or working life

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 enquiry

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

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 the 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

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



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 leaders’ 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

rhetoric: the management of symbols (such as a language) in order to encourage and coordinate social action. ‘Rhetorical sensitivity’ is 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

risk: a situation in which decision makers have a high knowledge of alternatives, know the probability and can calculate the costs and assess the benefits of each alternative

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, levels 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


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 are reaching 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

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, in which 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 the trust and communication that are vital to overall organizational performance

social class: the relative location of a person or group within a larger society, based on wealth, power, prestige or other valued resources

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

socialization: the lifelong 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

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

status: the social ranking of people; the position an individual occupies in society or in a social group or work organization

STEPLE analysis framework: This categorizes the external context into six main types: Social, Technological, Economic, Political, Legal and Ecological

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

strategic business unit: a term to describe corporate development that divides the corporation’s operations into strategic business units, which allows comparisons between units. According to advocates, corporate managers are better able to determine whether they need to change the mix of businesses in their portfolio

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 nonetheless remain choices

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

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 self-regulating 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

technology: the means by which an organization transforms resources, including information, into products or services, and the social organization of work, which takes such forms as work teams, governance rules and procedures, communications and payment systems; 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 the selection, adoption and implementation of technologies

the economy: the social institution that ensures the maintenance of society through the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services

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

transformative change: large-scale change involving radical and fundamental new ways of thinking and doing

transitional change: incremental change involving a planned and consistent movement from the current to the desired state


UK Equality Act 2010: protects people against discrimination based on – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity

urbanization: the process by which an increasing proportion of a population lives in cities rather than in rural areas



valence: the anticipated satisfaction or dissatisfaction that an individual feels towards an outcome

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 tensions: 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



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 purposefully co-coordinated through formalized roles and relationships to achieve a division of labour designed to attain a set of objectives. It is also known as formal organization

work orientation: an attitude towards work that constitutes a broad
disposition towards certain kinds of paid work