OB and Management Assignment
The requirements are these:
1) The candidate’s description of both Institutional Theory and Cultural Theory did not strike us as a description of theories. To qualify as theoretical, theories should explain.
Some features characteristic of institutions and cultures are stated quite far into the thesis in passing comments, but the examiners felt that restatement of various attributes of institutions and of culture does not qualify as a theory of institutions nor of culture. (Note that Hofstede who is mentioned, does not provide a theory of culture. He offers a number of dimensions which can be used to distinguish one culture from another descriptively and he indicates that persons from different ‘national cultures’ may come into conflict as a result of cultural differences. He does not explain why cultures are as he measures them to be or why they change over time. Indeed he treats National Cultures as static.)
We require, therefore, that the candidate incorporates some institutional and/ or cultural theory into the thesis. There is a body of literature known as Institutional Theory, and another known as Cultural Theory (which goes well beyond Hofstede, as well as only requiring two dimensions). As ‘Grid Group Cultural Theory’ encompasses both institutions and culture (and has the potential to offer very interesting re-interpretations of the candidate’s findings) we recommend this is introduced in the Literature Review. As it has powerful explanatory properties, it may be used to offer some re-interpretation of the qualitative data.
Grid-Group Cultural Theory explains why actors feel the way they feel, think the way they think and act the way they act. It also explains the inevitability of cultural change which makes it very different from Hofstede who posits ‘national culture’ as a constant. It is also ‘fractal’ operating in exactly the same way at the level of individual actors and at the scale of far larger actors such as a university, a government ministry … indeed all cultural phenomena from family mealtimes and shopping lists to the regulation of banks and other financial institutions. As well as being a powerful theory, it is also mercifully simple, employing just two dimensions – making it very efficient in comparison with many other theories. A good starting point is Michael Thompson’s paper How Banks and Other Financial Institutions Think published in the Actuarial Journal and the early chapters of his book Organising and Disorganising.
If the candidate has other Institutional and/ or Cultural theories that they would rather introduce, this should provide an adequate alternative. However if he wishes to be introduced to GGCT, the External Examiner would be pleased to explain and demonstrate the theory to him. One of the ways it might be especially helpful is in explaining why equally (but differently) rational actors see different degrees of risk in the same set of circumstances. Some have high risk appetites while others are very intolerant of (ie stressed by) risks.
2) Concerning the Findings and Analyses chapters especially, there needs to be a thread to the analysis discussing the points at which the findings confirm or diverge from the prior literature. According to the positivist way of conducting research, unexpected and disconfirming (negative) findings are very valuable indeed because they highlight when there is a need to abandon or revise the theories on which previous expectations (hypotheses) were based. ‘Beautiful theories wrecked by ugly facts’ hasten theory revision and development in a trial and error process of error elimination.
The candidate already makes good use of tables to summarise differences of approach. We suggest that similar matrix tables (consisting of columns for each author and date; the theory employed; their findings; my findings, brief explanation for the difference). Summarising where the findings confirm and contradict existing theories may show a pattern, at-a-glance. This would enable readers to see where theory revisions are justified – including revisions to the candidate’s own preferred theory. We emphasise negative findings are no disgrace… it is what is done with them that matters more.
3) Indeed, there are many points at which the candidate reports where his findings support certain authors and contradict others. The big question is ‘Why do scientific findings disagree?’ Many of these points of confirmation and refutation are passed-over in the thesis without any comment. However when questioned at the Viva, the candidate did have interesting things to say about where his findings diverged from some authors’ findings. We require that the implications which the findings carry for the prior literature are discussed profoundly. It is important to convey a sense of how the thesis advances knowledge, not just by filling in ‘gaps’ which others have not looked into, but also by identifying where the prior literature is a) refuted b) validated, or where the evidence is inconclusive either way. In a way this is a reiteration of our last requirement (2 above).
We need the candidate’s judgements as to why these differences between the findings and the prior literature have occurred. Are they because of 1) methodological weaknesses in either the prior literature or in this thesis? Are they 2) because prior researchers have made theoretical mistakes and unwarranted assumptions? Where the findings differ from previous findings, the candidate may suggest that this was because the countries and institutions under study differed from those countries and institutions which the prior literature has examined. Indeed this may well be the case, but it is important to offer some explanations of why prior theories do not seem to apply well, say in Pakistan, while others seem to apply just as well in Pakistan as they do elsewhere. Grid-Group Cultural Theory may help disentangle some of these puzzles.
It is important to do this because a DBA should contribute by ‘moving debates forwards’ in a critical way that is useful to practitioners. This obligation arises from entering a ‘scientific community’. If the candidate feels a prior researcher has probably got things wrong, he should have the courage to state this, suggesting how others made their errors and offering a way of correcting these mistakes. Alternatively, he may admit to limitations in his own methodology which may explain findings which contradict previous studies.
And what can be made from unexpected similarities between Pakistan and the UK?
4) The Examiners require greater clarity on which particular insights were enabled through the use of mixed methods (rather than by qualitative or quantitative methods treated separately). It is sometimes said that ‘the sum is greater than the parts’. What special magnifying effects did the mix of methods enable?
5) During the Viva there was an interesting exchange between the Internal Examiner and the candidate concerning the distinction between ‘factual truth’ and ‘useful truth’. Because this is a thesis submitted for DBA, we think it important to emphasise this distinction and to distinguish the ‘useful truths’ which the thesis offers, from the ‘factual’ findings.
6) During the Viva, it emerged that there were definite methodological difficulties. Some items asked respondents to make causal connections which even researchers find difficult to establish. Among the ‘Attitudinal and Behavioural Questions’, boxes I. II. Vi. and VII. are particularly difficult to answer. For example, how would a respondent be in a position to know the extent to which ‘the impact of professional occupational therapists in [my] institution’ was sustaining ‘human capital’? This is not a question which can be answered on the basis of a respondent’s direct experience. (They could express an informed opinion such that, IF they had experienced occupational therapy, whether or not they felt that it had had some effect on their ‘human capital’…. Assuming of course that they knew what was meant by ‘human capital’. ‘Human capital is not a phrase that is in common use in the general population, so respondents would also have to guess its meaning in order to answer the question.
Similar comments apply to box II. How would an employee know one way or the other that ‘occupational therapist counselling is effective in reducing different types of stress’, unless they (the respondent) had done research on this question, knew what different types of stress there might be and knew which of these types had increased and which had decreased?
Item VII is probably the most difficult to answer as it supposes that the respondent knows how much, say, any nausea and chest pains, or memory problems they may have experienced are caused by ‘stress at the workplace’. Epidemiologists have indeed detected associations among such variables, but they have done this at the ‘population scale’, by measuring excesses of work demands over available resources on the one hand and counting the incidence of chest pains on the other, separately. (Their respondents are not required to assess the connections between the variables.)
Q11 ‘Do you think professional occupational therapy at [your] organisation is effective?’ is also very difficult for a respondent to answer authoritatively, especially if they had had no experience of receiving occupational therapy, or had no access to ‘before and after’ data at their institution showing how, say absenteeism was being reduced due to the introduction of occupational therapy. Responses can only be read as attitudinal statements, to be correlated with other attitudinal statements. It would be a mistake to treat these as factual statements.
The thesis is rather vulnerable in this respect and we require a response. This could be in the form of an admission of ‘weaknesses and suggested improvements’, including some re-design of the questionnaire. It could be that the responses to the problematic questions still have value because they may provide an index of the morale or particular ‘thought style’ of each respondent (see 1) above re Cultural Theory).
However we do not require that the questionnaire be redesigned and a new survey conducted. This is because doing a DBA is a learning process, and it is valuable to learn from methodological mistakes. It is sometimes joked that ‘as we learn so much from making mistakes that we really should make more of them!’
7) We require that the candidate is clearer on the ‘new dimensions’ which his research has opened up. This is probably where his major contribution lies. What’s new here? Say it loud!
8) The Methodology Chapter should be halved or perhaps more than halved, so that it makes clear how the methodology and methods adopted served the Research Questions. This will allow space for items 1)-7) to be addressed. The examiners welcomed the use of comparative method.
9) Among the publications posted at the beginning of the thesis are some that do not arise from the thesis. These must be deleted from the list.
The above list completes the changes we require. We make the following observations and suggestions:
10) It would be good to have an explanation of why the candidate chose this area of study. It is not enough to say ‘because there is a gap’. Why ‘stress’ and ‘org. commitment’ rather than any other area of research? Why does it matter ethically, practically and theoretically? Why does he care about this subject?
11) Sometimes it is hard to follow the ‘thread of the argument’ in the Literature Review and where Findings are reported. Please bear in mind the need to take the reader along the journey which the author is setting out on, providing cumulative summaries and signposts.
12) It would help to have clear definitions of all concepts used such as ‘organisational climate’; ‘organisational commitment’; ‘job satisfaction’; ‘normative commitment’; ‘affective commitment’; ‘continuance commitment’; ‘personal stressor’; ‘environmental stressor’; ‘organisational stressor’; ‘work employment and vulnerability’; ‘stress’ and how it differs from ‘anxiety’, plus several other concepts for which abbreviations are given on p. xii-xiii. Where does the ‘environment’ begin? Is there anything that is not part of an environment?! Definitions matter because not all authors mean the same thing by the same term.
13) It would be good to refer to ‘Ockham’s Razor’ where the question is raised as to how simple or complex a model or theory needs to be.
14) The sentence at the foot of p.17 seems circular (tautological) re ‘wellbeing…affected by stress’
15) Surely the graph on p. 20 should be a bar graph not a line graph? This is a criticism of the authors who produced the graph, not of the candidate himself. A caption which says something about the countries at which point the two lines cross over would be helpful… and a comment on what the horizontal axis is really all about.
16) Anxiety and stress are mentioned in the same sentence (20) does this imply they are similar, the same or distinct and different? (This is also an important definitional matter. See item 12 above.)
17) Second para (22) begins with a sentence implying that the more stressed one is the more job satisfaction one has. The candidate probably meant to write ‘negative correlation’ not ‘positive relationship’
18) The vitamin metaphor seems very promising. Can the health/ illhealth metaphor be extended? (49). It is consistent with the ‘functionalist’ paradigm assumptions underpinning the thesis which makes a lot of use of health and pathology metaphors.
19) P.27 A sociologist would note that you are using an ‘occupational definition of class’ (second para. It is of course acceptable to do this.
20) We suggest that the candidate states the theoretical significance of the questions in italics (28)? Why are these questions worth asking? By asking them where will that leave existing theories once we have the answers?
21) Ditto the question on p. 29. It hints at class being important. Is the candidate wishing to extend the literature on stress into the literature on class? It is a class analysis that states that worker autonomy may be associated with their level of reported stress. If the candidate reads Grid Group Cultural Theory, he will have an alternative theory explaining why there are different sensitivities to risk regardless of occupation.
22) P. 30 describes a ‘research gap’. The candidate might explain what the theoretical yield might be if gender and occupational class within the educational sector of the UK and Pakistan are included (as he has done).
Here is an example of what might be interesting about occupational and gender variations:
Between administrators and academics who will be
‘workers doing a job’
‘dutiful officers issuing and obeying commands and ensuring compliance’
‘colleagues competing fiercely for rapid promotion’
‘game-players out to win’
‘devotees pursuing their vocation or calling’
‘worried persons in an insecure labour market trying to survive another month in temporary********** paid **********quo;
‘members of a collective movement aiming to change the world for the benefit of everybody, such as education for all’
‘surface actors playing a role while pretending that they care’.
…what ‘occupational stress’ and ‘organisational commitment’ might mean to each of these categories of employee could be VERY different…
Might there also be gendered self-understanding of the same phenomena? (219, 246)… males may enjoy the competitive game playing that women may find distasteful (and which they then describe as ‘stressful’).
23) I thought ‘axiology’ was the study of ultimate values. Is the decision to include UK and Pakistani public HE institutions really ‘axiological’? (33) The reasons given – to establish the effects of differences – seemed sound enough!
24) ‘elastic limits crossed’ (42) …. A reminder that the concept of stress originated in engineering! Once the ability of a beam to withstand a load has been exceeded, then its usefulness is over permanently.
25) Clear para break needed. Insert extra line space (44)
26) Para foot 49/ top 50 is a bit dense and difficult to follow.
27) Why assume that emotions are not rational (56)? Aristotle thought that they usually were unless distorted by ‘akrasia’ see Robert Solomon, What is an Emotion)?
28) Why conclude that ‘stress is an internal attribute’? Anxieties at least, may be communicated within a group so that everybody feels the same way via ‘transferences’
29) ‘stress of service jobs’ (49) see A R Hoshchild The Managed Heart; commercialisation of human feeling
30) What does the DRIVE model add to common sense popular understandings of stress?
31) The thesis contains many useful tables. Consider adding captions to all those which do not have captions.
32) Do organisations ever have ‘agreed goals’ (72)? These are very hard for universities to agree on. If not, then ‘alignment’ is not possible? (67)
33) Is Bateman and Strasser (72) tautological?
34) Sector differences are interesting. Any thoughts about how they have come about? (74)
35) (76) insert line break at para break ‘Interestingly…’
36) P. 77 – 79 places one finding on top of another. Perhaps to make a critical ‘magisterial’ comment about where you stand in relation to these various authors.
37) Is Organisational Behaviour a ‘discipline’ or a domain were different disciplines exist… and often compete in terms of the explanations they offer and the topics they address? (79).
38) On p81 the paragraph about culture beginning ‘Aggregation…’ seems a bit jumbled-up and hard to follow.
39) Culture or rational choice theory… these are profoundly different approaches, the latter being based on the assumption of utility-seeking behaviour by agents (82). It may be possible to see the relationship between the two using Grid Group Cultural Theory which sees rational theory as itself a cultural outcome of ‘low social solidarity’ and ‘low social regulation’.
40) Institutional ‘theory’ appears in a brief ‘flash’ without being introduced, explained or discussed (86) followed by Hypotheses. The leap from institutional theory to hypotheses is hard to follow for the reader.
41) Gender, faculty and economies. Is this really what ‘institutional theory’? is about (87)
42) 91-92 Is this really ‘institutional theory’?
43) As expressed page 92 seems confusing
44) Is HR essential to ‘shaping organisational commitment and enhancing individual and collective information’? (93) This seems more of a normative ‘should be’ claim rather than a factual ‘is’ claim.
45) First sentence (94) might this statement be treated as a commonplace, rather than ‘interesting’?
46) The research paradigm adopted is probably ‘functionalist’ (107) insofar as you are seeking to identify components in a system that each contribute something to the health of the overall system. It may be that you are also ‘unitarist’ in that you appear to assume that the interests of members and of the organisation as a whole should be in ‘alignment’, ie. more or less ‘as one’
47) Realism is confused with empiricism (109). Empiricism trusts the ‘evidence of experience’ (after Bishop George Berkeley) … Realism mistrusts appearances and seeks to ‘go beneath the surface’ in order to discover ‘essential underlying, hidden essential causes’. For a discussion see Keat and Urry Social Theory as Science. Conventionalism (Positivism in its present day guise) treats all claims as provisional on the basis that it is logically impossible to rule out future disconfirmations of testable theories (after Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations. See also discussions of ‘Hume’s problem of induction’. Positivists are especially interested in surprising ‘black swan’ counterfactual evidence.
48) P. 213 needs a line break inserting between paras
49) On p. 219 ‘reported’ rather than ‘exhibited’. And ‘reported behavioural impacts’ rather than ‘behavioural impacts’. Bear in mind that the thesis does not measure behaviour (eg it does not measure actual increases or decreases in the use of occupational therapists, but instead what respondents reported about occupational therapy etc)
50) ‘continuance commitment of male employees is significantly affected by the role of occupational therapists’ (200)… but not for females. The finding is slightly counter-intuitive. Might this be a reflection of men’s and women’s dispositions towards therapists? Are you referring to employees who have experienced occupational therapy directly or are they making suppositions on behalf of whether or not occupational therapy works or does not work for other people. The questionnaire design is such that it is probably the latter that you are reporting…
51) ‘Reported’ rather than ‘Demonstrated’? (219).
52) Might the differences between academic and admin staff have something to do with the differences between ‘vocation/ calling’ and ‘employment/ jobs’ mentioned earlier? The candidate knows (!) about how much an academic has to go through in order to become an academic! It encompasses the whole of one’s life in a way that administrative employment (jobs) probably does not.
53) Might ‘Organisational Commitment’ be an IV? (72) with some effect on reported stress… or have you answered this already and I did not notice?
54) What do you think your respondents might understand by ‘negative psychological impact’? And do respondents have a good enough awareness of ‘negative physiological impacts’ (219) to comment on them reliably?
55) Are staff in a position to know what the level of occupational therapy available in their organisation is? Do employees have enough exposure to OC in order to answer a question about it? Ie. there is limited value in answers that are not based on direct experience.
56) What might ‘effective social support’ mean to your respondents? (226). Would a respondent consider a confidential shared grumble with a work colleague as ‘social support’? (It can be very supportive to confide in others who have similar experiences.)
57) What would respondents have understood in terms of the difference between ‘emotional support’ and ‘moral support’? (228).
58) P. 230. The opening two sentences beginning ‘The respondents were asked… can you revisit the para and clarify it? Can we make anything of responses by those who had not used a stress management programme as to how effective it is? They would just be guessing. You may be able to make something out of how much or how little respondents seemed to believe that stress management programmes are valuable.
59) What is meant by ‘the visibility of affective commitment…. is highly evident’ when the country differences are ‘minor’ (67% against 65%)? These statements were difficult to understand.
60) A caption would be particularly helpful under Table 5.3.8 (233). Does it show that the ‘normative commitment of other people is ‘highly visible’ to the respondents or is it conveying something else? Similarly Table 5.3.9 (235)
61) Is it safer to say that ‘psychological symptoms’ are the ‘highest reported symptoms’? This relates back to the earlier point about how well respondents are able to recognise physiological symptoms and attribute these accurately to workplace stress…. (And to distinguish such physiological symptoms from home-based stresses!)
62) Should respondents/ employees know whether employees’ blood pressure has increased? (262). This might be defended as a ‘useful truth’?
63) Para 3 (243) is a good example of where conflicting findings deserve teasing-out for their wider theoretical implications.
64) 246 do you mean ‘vary between’ rather than ‘vary within’?
65) 246-7 Care is needed here, given problems with the questionnaire. You might say ‘Females reported using it’ instead of ‘Females use it…’
66) The last sentence of the last box in this table… do we know what respondents understood by the term ‘visibility’? Did it mean, they were very aware of the presence and activity of occupational therapists in their organisation? We are inclined to agree with the statement made in this sentence, but how is it that you can claim to know that it is true? Is it just that your respondents tend to think similarly to us about occupational therapy? It may be that what occupational therapy IS done is highly effective. This is what OC specialists themselves claim to be able to demonstrate and there is a big literature on this.
67) 258 We don’t see that the thesis contributes to Institutional Theory. What form of institutional theory? and in what way have you modified it?
68) 258 A diagram showing DRIVE with your additional dimensions added to it would clarify this point.
69) 262 Do you really mean to claim ‘females have higher acute stress’… or that ‘females reported being stressed more often than did males’? Again as you are reporting respondents’ responses concerning both themselves and other persons (their opinions rather than actual occurrences) you may wish to reconsider the phrase ‘’it is evident that young employees have higher levels of stress and lower organisational commitment’. What you can say is that they ‘report’ these. It is interesting that younger staff report more stress as this points to their relatively lower levels of autonomy and authority. OB and Management Assignment
70) Also among your practical recommendations you might like to mention a group of interventions known as ‘applied drama’ such as Forum Theatre, Object Theatre and Prepared Role Play. Also ‘Learning Sets’.