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New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?: How the Joint Pursuit of Social and Financial Goals Challenges Traditional Organizational Designs



The joint pursuit of commercial and societal objectives will likely require non-traditional (non-hierarchical) ways of organizing. This chapter discusses the prospects for one promising alternative: “organizational democracy.” This is a flatter form characterized by distributed decision rights, a deliberative culture, and employee ownership. Other alternatives to hierarchy have emphasized individualistic values of autonomy and empowerment. In contrast, organizational democracy emphasizes the collective. Relevant work in political philosophy underlines analogous dimensions including representation, deliberation, and a collective point of view. The last point makes it different from work on solidarity and class or group interest. In multi-objective organizational democracy there are trade-offs and these are negotiated. Representation and deliberation come to the foreground. Unlike in traditional organizations, however, negotiations are not regarded as transaction costs to be minimized; rather they are brought to the foreground and cultivated. The chapter illustrates these ideas and discusses challenges and avenues for future research.
New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?:
How the Joint Pursuit of Social and Financial Goals Challenges
Traditional Organizational Designs
Julie Battilana
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School
Michael Fuerstein
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
St. Olaf College
Mike Lee
Ph.D. Candidate in Management
Harvard Business School
(The authors’ names are listed alphabetically. All were equal contributors.)
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
For an extended period during the first half of the 20th century, industrial democracy was a
vibrant movement, with ideological and organizational ties to a thriving unionism.1 In 2015,
however, things look different. While there are instances of democracy in the business landscape,
hierarchical forms of organization remain dominant and organizational democracy commands
only scant attention in organizational theory. The precise reasons for this trend are undoubtedly
complex and bridge economic, sociological, and psychological concerns. Nonetheless, a key
indicator of this trend is the dominance of the view of organizational economists that hierarchy
outperforms non-hierarchical alternatives (including democracy) on grounds of economic
efficiency across a wide range of contexts (Coase, 1937; Williamson, 1981; Ouchi, 1980). The
underrepresentation of democratic models compared to hierarchy would thus seem to reflect, in
part, a triumph of this economic logic (e.g., Hansmann, 1996).
What does the balance of arguments look like, however, when values besides efficient revenue
production are brought into the picture? The question is not hypothetical: In recent years, an ever
increasing number of corporations have developed and adopted socially responsible behaviors,
thereby hybridizing aspects of corporate businesses and social organizations (Margolis & Walsh,
2003; Kanter, 2009; Porter & Kramer, 2011). Particularly striking is the marked growth of social
enterprises, which adopt a social mission as their principal objective but sustain themselves
through commercial activities (Battilana and Lee, 2014; Battilana, 2015). This deliberate
integration of social concerns into the value proposition of businesses – be they corporate
businesses or social enterprises – is notable in its own right as a challenge to conventional
conceptions of what the very practice of business is about. It is also notable, from an
organizational point of view, insofar as it raises questions about what model is best suited to the
integration of non-financial concerns. Does the joint pursuit of commercial and social objectives
require new ways of organizing?
In this essay we argue that it does. Or at least – to put our thesis in more measured terms – we
argue that the joint pursuit of financial and social objectives warrants significant rethinking of
organizational democracy’s merits compared both to hierarchy and to non-democratic
alternatives to hierarchy. In making this argument, we draw on some parallels with political
democracy: the success of political democracy as a model for integrating diverse values offers
some grounds for thinking about parallel virtues in the business case. Our goal is not to offer any
general prescription for organizational democracy at this stage but, instead, to argue that the
1 We are grateful to David Courpasson, Jean-Claude Thoenig, and Jeffrey Moriarty for their thoughtful
comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We would also like to thank participants from the third meeting
of the Society for Progress for valuable discussion. Finally, we owe a significant debt to Shiya Wang and
Marissa Kimsey, for their assistance in preparing the manuscript and conducting background research.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
merits of more democratic models of organizing deserve significant reevaluation in the context of
organizations pursuing multiple objectives.
We proceed, first, by drawing on an extensive literature review to assess the way in which
organizational democracy has been conceptualized in recent decades, and to document the
relative lack of substantive discussion about it in comparison with some other alternatives to
hierarchy. We then characterize the recent surge of socially engaged models of enterprise and
press the case that this turning point warrants reconsideration of the merits of organizational
democracy. We close with some reflections on the future prospects of the democratic model and
the limitations of our argument.
Section 1: The notion of democracy in organization theory
Any exploration of democratic models of organization must begin with the understanding that
hierarchy has been and remains the dominant form of organizing (Gruenfeld & Tiedens, 2010;
Pfeffer, 2013). Organizational hierarchies are organized around two main principles: first, vertical
differentiation of responsibilities and second, authority that is vested in one’s hierarchical
position and gives one the authority to direct, manage, reward, and punish those who hold roles
below one’s position in the organizational hierarchy (Jaques, 1996; Weber, 1947). In contrast, as
we detail below, organizational democracy is a flatter organizational form that is characterized by
greater decision rights for employees, a special kind of organizational culture, and the possibility
of employee ownership.
A. The dominance of organizational hierarchies
The classic statement of hierarchy’s rise came from Weber (1947) who saw hierarchy as a
distinctly rational organizational form that enabled efficiency and operational scale. In further
exploring why organizational hierarchies have become dominant, scholars across economic,
sociological, and psychological disciplines have advanced a number of distinct arguments. First,
economists in the transaction cost tradition have famously argued that in the presence of human
bounded rationality and opportunism, hierarchies enable firms to minimize transaction costs and
maximize efficiency (Coase, 1937; Williamson, 1981; Jaques, 1996; Simon, 1947, Ouchi, 1980;
Pfeffer, 2013; Martin et al., 2013; Zeitoun et al., 2014).
Relatedly, a second line of argument posits that hierarchies align with basic psychological drives
towards status orderings (Gruenfeld & Tiedens, 2010; Pfeffer, 2013). Such arguments build on
research showing that status orderings emerge spontaneously in groups and that such orderings
are functional and even evolutionarily adaptive (Báles et al., 1951; Slater, 1955; Gould, 2003).
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
A third line of reasoning, which is rooted in organizational sociology, argues that organizations
adopt hierarchy not so much out of concerns for efficiency but rather to be regarded as legitimate
in their field of activity (Meyer & Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). According to this
line of thinking, organizational hierarchies are socially shared structures that have become so
ingrained in the daily life of organizations that they are taken-for-granted. This makes it difficult
to change them even when there is a desire and a reason to do so.
Still, despite the dominance of organizational hierarchy, organization scholars have long
documented its limitations, and argued for alternatives (e.g., McGregor, 1960; Ouchi & Jaeger,
1978). In particular, there has been a growing call for “flatter” organizational designs that are
intended to create a more flexible organization built on individual autonomy (Malone, 2004;
Hamel, 2007). Yet surprisingly – as we discuss below – most of the discourse on alternative ways
of organizing does not substantially invoke notions of democracy.
B. Democracy in organization theory: A dormant topic
In an effort to better understand the role of democracy in organizations, we conducted a
systematic literature review of articles from peer-reviewed journals as well as a few of the leading
practitioner journals.2 We began by conducting a broad search of the following 27 search terms to
capture alternatives to hierarchical models of organizing: democracy, corporate democracy,
democratic, worker democracy, workplace democracy, worker ownership, economic democracy,
industrial democracy, self-management, democratic management, democratic decision-making,
democratic governance, democratic organizations, non-hierarchical management, post-
bureaucratic, self-managed teams, self-directed work teams, self-manage, distributed authority,
decentralized authority, participatory management, worker participation, empowerment,
heterarchy, network organization, flat organization. The search results from three databases
2 Literature review methodology. In our effort to account for how research in organizational studies has
accounted for alternatives to typical organizational hierarchies, we began by conducting a broad search in
the following article databases: ABI/ProQuest, Business Source Complete, and Web of Science. We
limited the search to the following 37 peer-reviewed journals: Academy of Management Journal, Academy
of Management Review, Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Perspectives,
Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Management Science, Strategic Management
Journal, Organization Studies, American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Annual
Review of Sociology, Social Forces, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Stanford
Social Innovation Review, California Management Review, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly,
Voluntas, World Development, Development, Global Governance, International Studies Quarterly,
American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Quarterly, Philosophy
and Public Affairs, Ethics, Journal of Applied Ethics, Episteme, Business History Review, Business
History, Enterprise and Society, Human Relations, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Journal of
Business Venturing, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Journal of Social Entrepreneurship.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
produced a preliminary list of 3,661 articles. After reading through the abstracts of these articles,
we selected 213 of them that dealt with alternatives to typical organizational hierarchies. We also
consulted with expert scholars who specialize in the study of alternatives to typical
organizational hierarchies and, following their suggestions, we included 27 additional articles
that are relevant to our topic, resulting in a final list of 240 articles published between 1960 and
Our systematic review of these articles revealed that while calls for less hierarchical forms of
organizing have been frequent, only a small minority explicitly invoke democratic notions of
organization. Of the 240 articles in our comprehensive literature review, 47 invoke the term
“democracy” or “democratic” in the abstract or title. However, upon closer inspection, of these,
only 27 tackle democratic forms of organizing.3 Discourse on democracy in organizational theory
has thus been relatively dormant in recent decades.
C. Democracy in organizations in recent decades: A multi-dimensional
We analyzed how democracy was discussed in the 27 articles in our review that invoke the term
and induced three primary dimensions of organizational democracy: greater decision rights,
democratic culture, and employee ownership. While the first two dimensions are discussed in the
majority of the articles that tackle organizational democracy, the third one is discussed in only a
small minority. Organizations may adopt more or less democratic arrangements on each of these
dimensions, as we explain below.
(i). Decision rights
Nearly all of the 27 articles in our literature review invoke the term democracy as meaning, in
part, the right of employees to participate in the making of decisions that affect them. More
specifically, decisions rights are the legitimate entitlement to participate in and exert influence on
an organization’s ongoing management (Brenkert, 1992). Whereas the centralization of decision-
making power characterizes hierarchies, the diffusion of decision-making power characterizes
more democratic organizations (Brown, 1985; Harrison & Freeman, 2004).
The specific descriptions of the contours of decision rights in organizations vary in the literature
based on several dimensions, including formality – spoken or unspoken (Cafferata, 1982); scope
3 Others articles address democracy in unions, shareholder democracy, and even democracy in inter-
organizational alliances. While these are all valuable topics, our focus is on alternatives to the hierarchical
structure that organizes employees and managers, that is, conceptions of workplace democracy, industrial
democracy, or corporate democracy.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
– within the parameters of an individual’s work or beyond (Petit, 1959; Ackoff, 1994); and holder
– imbued to employees only or also to other stakeholders, such as suppliers and community
members (Moriarty, 2010; Sankowski, 1981). While some organizations may formally grant
authority to their employees to participate in decisions beyond their individual work, such as
deciding on a new strategic orientation or helping select a new leader (Kerr, 2004), other
organizations only give decision-making authority to their employees within the realm of their
individual work. Hsieh (2005: 116) also differentiates between “the right to contest decisions”
and “a right to govern economic enterprises.” Grounded in Rawls’s conception of justice, he
argues for the right to protection from “arbitrary interference” in the workplace (Hsieh, 2008:
91). Giving some decision rights to outside stakeholders is yet another step, suggesting a process
in which all affected parties are given a say in a deliberative process (Moriarty, 2010).
(ii). Organizational culture
About half of the 27 articles in our literature review that invoke the term democracy explicitly
discuss the importance of norms or values that support democracy in organizations. These
articles emphasize the importance of organizational culture in enabling democratic processes and
systems. A democratic organizational culture creates space for discourse, deliberation, and
negotiation (Slater & Bennis, 1990). Creating and maintaining such a democratic culture is
particularly important for organizations as it sustains participation through an ethos that values
employees as more than cogs in a machine (Cochran, 1956). Democratic cultures address the
tension between individualist and community values through the idea that participation in the
community is itself an important way of realizing individual potential (Manville & Ober, 2003).
In democratic organizations, organizational members thus have both the right and the obligation
to participate in deliberations. Interestingly, in its historical (early 20th century) form, industrial
democracy arose from the need to protect the shared interests of manufacturing laborers, and thus
was closely allied with collective bargaining powers and a conception of class identity (Derber,
1970). The idea thus entailed a significant cultural emphasis on group identity and, likewise, a
need to negotiate individual concerns with other members of the group. While contemporary
notions of organizational democracy are no longer centered in the same way around class
solidarity, many invoke a notion of citizenship that involves both rights and responsibilities to the
collective (Forcadell, 2005; Manville & Ober, 2003).
(iii). Ownership stakes
A minority of the 27 articles that invoke the notion of organizational democracy emphasize the
conception of employee ownership (for examples, see Sankowski, 1981; Collins, 1995; Forcadell,
2005). While ownership may be concentrated in shareholders, it is not always the case. When
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
ownership is not concentrated in shareholders but also includes employees, they have greater
grounds for legitimate participation in organizational decisions, as well as a greater scope of
interest beyond their narrowly defined roles (Sauser, 2009). When ownership stakes exist, they
can facilitate and complement a broad diffusion of decision rights and a democratic
organizational culture.
Mondragón, like most cooperatives all over the world, is a well-known and well-documented
modern example of an organization in which employees are also “joint owners” (Forcadell, 2005:
257). As cooperative members, Mondragón workers have ownership stakes in the firm. Sharing
not only in decision-making of the organization, codified in the corporate management model
(Flecha & Ngai, 2014), but also in profits helps Mondragón “[overcome] the capital-labor
confrontation” (Forcadell, 2005: 257; for discussion of broader scale evidence of performance
benefits of shared ownership, see Blasi et al., 2013). Shared ownership inflects an organization’s
ethos and the channels of decision-making and conflict resolution. For example, in studying Nir
taxi station in Tel Aviv, Darr (1999) describes the worker cooperative as “democratic” as all
workers (also owners) elect managers for limited terms. In unpacking conflict resolution
mechanisms in this cooperative, he suggests that the organization’s egalitarian ethos regarding
ride distribution stemmed from the founders’ aim “to attribute meaning to their shared ownership
of the station” (Darr, 1999: 297). Accordingly, the shared ownership structure imbued legitimacy
for equity claims in the cooperative, as well as for the informal and formal manifestations of
conflict and resolution.
In short, notions of organizational democracy converge significantly around an organizational
model involving (a) a broad diffusion of decision rights and (b) an organizational culture that
entails some form of commitment to integrate individual perspectives with that of the broader
organization; and finally, (c) in some cases, a broad diffusion of ownership rights. Still,
conceptions of organizational democracy were a relative rarity in our literature review on
alternatives to hierarchy. In contrast, as we discuss below, other alternatives to hierarchy have
received more attention.
Section 2: The rise of alternatives to hierarchies
While hierarchy has been and continues to be the dominant form of organizing, its limitations
have become increasingly acute over time, which has led to the rise of alternative forms of
organizing. Three historical trends have made hierarchy’s limitations particularly acute, thereby
opening the door to alternatives. First, organizations today face a more dynamic, turbulent, and
competitive environment than in the past, and this requires more rapidly adaptable forms of
organization than hierarchies (Manz & Sims, 1984; Holland & Lockett, 1997; Ahuja & Carley,
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
1999; de Leede et al., 1999; Starkey et al., 2000; Ancona et al., 2002; Martin et al., 2013) that
tend to create delays in the decision-making process, and limit employee morale and incentives
(Kirsch et al., 2010; Hamel, 2011; Fjeldstad et al., 2012). Second, in order to adapt to today’s
knowledge-based economy, managers need to rely on employees to be more proactive and
creative, and to solve increasingly complex, non-routine problems (Simons, 1995; Adler et al.,
2008; Tangirala & Ramanujam, 2008; Kirsch et al., 2010; Bresman & Zellmer-Bruhn, 2013).
Many scholars have argued that hierarchies are not suited for this set of challenges (e.g., Adler,
2001; Fjeldstad et al., 2012). Finally, the increasingly networked nature of world has made the
limits of hierarchies more acute. Characterized by well-delineated boundaries, hierarchies may
no longer be a viable option for organizations as the boundaries of organizations are increasingly
challenged and blurred (Davis, 2010).
Given these limitations, authors have set forth various alternatives to organizational hierarchies.
Building on our in-depth literature review of these alternatives, in this section we analyze the
conceptions of less hierarchical forms of organization that are prevalent in the organizational
literature and highlight the relative scarcity of democratic forms of organizing. Indeed, as we
explain below, recent conceptions of alternatives to hierarchy have tended to privilege
psychological empowerment over structural empowerment and market-based designs over
democratic designs. These recent trends stand in stark contrast to the relative vibrancy of the
debate about workplace democracy during the industrial democracy movement of the early 20th
century. As corroborated by a Google Ngram search, the concept of industrial democracy, which
enjoyed popularity in the 1910s and 1920s, has dramatically waned since. At the same time, over
the last half-century, alternative conceptions of less hierarchical organizations, particularly
notions of self-management, have become predominant (with a particular spike of interest in such
ideas occurring in the 1980s and waning significantly thereafter).
A. From structural to psychological empowerment
Our literature review highlights two important trends in the recent discourse on less hierarchical
organizations. First, recent discourses on empowerment and employee voice have privileged
notions of psychological empowerment or making employees feel more powerful rather than
formal or structural empowerment. Management literature on empowerment up until the 1980s
emphasized “participative management” techniques such as quality circles, management by
objectives, and goal setting by subordinates that aimed to shift formal decision-making authority
within the organization (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Kanter, 1979).
However, beginning in the late 1980s, more psychological or interpretive concepts of
empowerment entered the discourse. These authors argued that empowerment is not so much a
matter of formal authority within an organization but is instead primarily a feature of individuals’
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
experience or interpretation of their environment that affects their sense of self-efficacy or
motivation within the organization (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Thomas & Velthouse, 1990;
Spreitzer, 1996). In this sense, to be empowered is ultimately determined by how powerful one
feels rather than simply a matter of whether one has decision-making authority. For this reason,
critics or skeptics of such approaches argue that psychological empowerment is but a watered-
down or softer notion of empowerment that fails to change the formal “hard” power within
organizations. These critics further argue that organizational efforts to empower employees
without giving them more formal power creates an illusion that employees have greater control
over their circumstances when, in fact, ultimate control remains in the hands of the same people
within the organization (Covaleski et al., 1998; Ezzamel & Willmott, 1998; Ciulla, 1998).
B. The rise of market-oriented notions of organizational design
A second noticeable feature of the discourse on alternatives to traditional organizational
hierarchies evidenced in our literature review is the emphasis on market-like approaches to
organizational design. Drawing on the pioneering work of Coase and Williamson, scholars have
explored organizational models that combine elements of hierarchical control with elements of
market control. These hybrid market-based designs are attractive in principle because they
combine the benefits of hierarchical organization with the basic advantages of markets, namely,
superior flexibility with respect to autonomous adaptation (Williamson, 1996; Foss, 2003;
Zenger, 2002).
Market-based approaches seek efficiencies by granting individual workers and worker-teams
substantial freedom from managerial oversight within a given domain, and employing structures
of internal competition among individuals to guide decision-making. In one example,
organizations primarily comprise project teams. Individuals have the freedom to pitch and choose
which projects to work on, and projects are selected not by managers but rather by the internal
market mechanism of supply and demand (Foss, 2003; Wingfield, 2012).
Self-managed teams, perhaps the most popular alternative to the traditional hierarchical form,
represent another example of infusing a hierarchical organization with elements of market
control. Such teams – which are given full autonomy over a given task, function, or project, but
are measured and incentivized on the delivery of specific outputs – function under market control
akin to external subcontractors (Zenger, 2002).
Beyond specific design choices that mimic the market, a wide swath of the broader discourse on
less hierarchical organization aligns with the ethos of markets and market-oriented notions of
individual freedom. Conceptions of flexible, loosely-coupled, modular, or network-based
organizations comprising autonomous individuals and teams, which are frequently offered as
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
alternatives to the traditional hierarchy (Fjelstad et al., 2012; Bahrami, 1992; Volberda, 1996;
Liebeskind et al., 1996), mirror the prevailing images of the market as dynamically evolving
based on the decisions of independent actors.
Comparing the recent conceptions of less hierarchical organizations with the conception of
organizational democracy discussed earlier, a clear distinction emerges. The recent discourse,
filled with concepts such as self-management and empowerment, emphasizes individualistic
values of autonomy and independence, and individual psychological experience
(“empowerment”). In contrast, organizational democracy seeks to grant workers substantial
control over their work environment through participation in, and cultural identification with, a
social collective within the organization. This collective orientation is strongest in historical
models of industrial democracy (Sorge, 1976), but is also evident in the emphasis of
contemporary theorists on democracy’s cultural elements of equality and deliberative
Section 3: Is now a turning point?: Changes in the objectives of
The distinctive advantage of democracy over both hierarchical and non-hierarchical alternatives,
we propose, lies in its capacity to integrate diverse values in decision processes. By “integrate”
we mean the process of balancing accommodating and, in some cases, reconciling diverse values
to achieve coherent and effective decision-making within an organization. Given the growing
need for businesses to perform this kind of value integration, we believe that more democratic
approaches to organizing deserve a re-examination. We acknowledge the continuing relevance of
longstanding arguments for organizational democracy that emphasize the significance of decision
rights for protecting workers’ interests, and likewise the intrinsic value of procedural fairness in
decision-making (Dahl, 1985; McMahon, 1994). Nonetheless, as these arguments appear more or
less unaffected by the changes we discuss below, we will set them aside for the purposes of this
paper in spite of their continuing importance.
There are new currents in the business world that suggest a more multifaceted value proposition
for enterprise. Over the last decades, some corporations have developed and adopted socially
responsible behaviors, thereby hybridizing aspects of corporate businesses and social
organizations (Margolis & Walsh, 2003; Kanter, 2009; Porter & Kramer, 2011). While
historically the commercial and social sectors have evolved on fairly separate tracks, over the last
30 years we have witnessed a blurring of the boundaries between these two sectors. As noted in
the Introduction, the epitome of this trend is the increase in social enterprises pursuing a social
mission as their primary goal, but engaging in commercial activities to sustain operations. By
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
“social mission,” we refer to an explicit, non-financial objective that plays a sustained role in
guiding a firm’s activities, and that is constituted by some significant aspect of human welfare.
Prime examples of those kinds of objectives include access to healthcare and education, the
reduction of poverty, the promotion of social and political capabilities, etc. The pursuit of a dual
mission by an increasing number of organizations is reflected in a growing range of novel legal
statuses that such organizations have adopted, such as the low-profit limited liability company
(L3C) and the benefit corporation in the United States, as well as the community interest
company (CIC) in the United Kingdom.
Beyond these observations about the changing value-orientation of many businesses, there are
the underlying concerns that have driven this change in the first place. While some businesses
have been driven towards social concerns through consumer pressures, many in the social
enterprise movement are driven by a moral concern for significant social failures: environmental
degradation, poverty, inadequate healthcare, and other profound yet unmet social needs. In the
face of such problems, there is a growing sense in the business world that enterprise can and
ought to play a role in more directly addressing such concerns (Margolis & Walsh, 2003). The
recent financial crisis has intensified skepticism toward the model of shareholder value
maximization (Battilana, 2015) and made calls for an increased emphasis on the social and
environmental features of business firms that have been made for some time (Courpasson &
Dany, 2003; Forcadell, 2005; Brickson, 2007) more prevalent. From this point of view, the need
for businesses to integrate social, environmental, and financial values is a moral need as much as
anything else.
As an increasing number of organizations aim not only to maximize shareholder value creation,
but also to achieve a social mission, they face a new governance challenge: they need to pursue
commercial goals while not losing sight of their social ones (Ebrahim et al., 2014). At the same
time, they need to make sure that their social goals do not prevent them from generating
commercial revenues. According to longstanding and more recent research in organizations, the
odds are low that corporations will succeed in maintaining this delicate balance. Indeed, a long
tradition of scholarship highlights the risk for organizations that follow a typical hierarchical
model and their workforces of losing sight of their purpose and values in the quest for
organizational survival and efficiency (Selznick, 1949; Weber, 1946). Further supporting this
claim, recent research on social enterprises, such as commercial microfinance organizations
(Battilana & Dorado, 2010) and work integration social enterprises (Battilana et al., 2015), that
aim at pursuing social and financial objectives, shows that the risk of mission drift (i.e., straying
from their social missions in the pursuit of profit) is one of the main challenges that these
organizations face, as they also have to set up and maintain effective commercial operations.
Does this context create a renewed case for more democratic ways of organizing? This is the
question that we tackle in the next section.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
Section 4: A renewed case for organizational democracy
The idea that there is a growing need for business to integrate fundamentally different types of
values suggests a significant parallel with one of the core motivations for democracy in the
political case. Below, we first build on the political philosophy literature to discuss the success of
political democracies in integrating diverse values. We then discuss the application of lessons
from the deliberative political model in business.
A. The success of political democracies in integrating diverse values
Historically, some of the most significant arguments for political democracy have revolved
around the fact that just and competent governance requires managing the competing values of a
diverse citizenry. We suggest that there are three core, interrelated features of political
democracies by which they tend to succeed, better than alternative forms of political
organization, in integrating diverse types of values. We do not hold that all of these features are
fully or adequately realized in all political democracies. Nor do we hold that these features are
conceptually necessary to the idea of democracy. Our suggestion is (a) that democracies have
tended better than alternative political systems to integrate diverse values in decision-making and
(b) that these three features play a crucial role in explaining that success where it exists. The
model below loosely corresponds to the idea of “deliberative democracy” as it has been explored
in political theory, and we will adopt that terminology ourselves.
(i). Structural representation of diverse values
First, political democracies allocate decision-making powers equally across members of diverse
value constituencies. This best ensures the adequate representation and the fair negotiation of
competing values in the process of decision-making. Democracies achieve this through equal
voting rights, guarantees of basic civil liberties, and representative legislative bodies. They also
achieve this – to the extent that they do – through the better distribution of meaningful
capabilities to participate in social and political life across diverse social groups. Examples of
such capabilities include the ability to persuasively present one’s views in public, access to
important venues of speech, access to social influence, and access to basic economic and
material conditions that enable such participation (Anderson, 1999).4
Democracies’ legally mandated decision-making powers – especially inclusive, egalitarian voting
procedures – provide a mechanism through which citizens are able to represent the bearing of
4 We are not arguing that democracies in fact succeed in all these dimensions. We are arguing that, where
democracies do succeed in better representing diverse value constituencies, it is in significant part because
of their superiority in these dimensions.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
their values on legislative representatives and, in some cases, specific policies. Voting processes
manage conflicts of value both through the substance of their outputs (as reflections of majority
or plurality sentiment), and through the procedural fairness by which inputs are weighed.
But on its own voting is inadequate as an expression of diverse values. This is partly because of
some well-known problems with voting procedures, such as cycling and strategic behavior
(Riker, 1982). More fundamentally, however, the aggregation of judgments or preferences
through voting does not in itself speak to the quality of the judgments or preferences that are
inputs to the system. When citizens vote on the basis of ethnic hatred, rank ignorance, or
selfishness, for example, the outcome simply amplifies those pre-existing flaws in citizens’
outlook (Fuerstein, 2008). A crucial part of the case for democracy thus derives from the fact that
the ethos and institutions of democracy facilitate due reflection on the full spectrum of moral
considerations that properly bear on public decision-making (Dewey, 1927; Anderson, 2006).
(ii). Deliberative culture
Given the crucial role of deliberation in good decision-making, political democracies depend on
a culture of reasons and justification that fosters some measure of accountability in one’s beliefs
and uses of power. This idea is perhaps the singular dominant theme in recent democratic theory
(Cohen, 2002; Habermas, 1996).5 Ongoing social deliberation is crucial to good decision-making
because it continually exposes citizens to the concerns of others. But the success of any
deliberative process depends on the acceptance of norms of rational accountability that compel
the reasoned adaptation of one’s own views to others’ articulated concerns. Successful
deliberative cultures are domains in which rational consistency is valued, in which naked appeals
to power or selfish interest are regarded as illegitimate, and in which there are significant social
sanctions attached to hypocrisy in action (in other words, one’s arguments are taken to provide
viable constraints on one’s actions) (Fuerstein, 2013; Elster, 1997).
The deliberative polling experiments of James Fishkin and others offer significant evidence of
the potential benefits of social deliberation in improving democratic decision-making (Fishkin,
2009).6 Fishkin’s experiments also show the importance of background conditions that improve
5 There are of course important dissenters to the deliberative democratic approach (e.g., Mouffe, 2000;
Sanders, 1997), in spite of its general dominance. Space constraints nonetheless prevent us from exploring
the main lines of objection and the most plausible responses to them. Translating these concerns from the
political to the business context would of course add yet another layer of complexity.
6 Fishkin’s “deliberative polling” model involves highly structured public meetings that precede electoral
decisions. The meetings are governed by various rules designed to insure that all parties get an equal say,
to promote respectful engagement, and to facilitate the presentation and assimilation of authoritative,
relevant factual information.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
the significance of arguments and information over power dynamics, social tensions, and pre-
existing biases (Sunstein, 2003).
(iii). Public point of view
Third, political democracies depend on the cultivation of a “public” point of view, i.e., a
conception of collective identity that shapes individual behavior so as to fairly promote the good
of all constituents. Thus, as much as deliberative processes depend on fidelity to rational norms,
they depend more fundamentally on the extent to which citizens attach moral worth to one
another and regard one another’s claims as worthy of fair consideration. Likewise, the adequate
cultivation of capacities to participate in deliberative exchanges depends on more general norms
of inclusiveness in domains of education, employment, and social organizations more generally
(Anderson, 1999). In this respect, democracy depends on cultural institutions and norms that
foster attitudes of respect, social trust, and attitudes of mutual concern across social groups. Such
attitudes are not only rational; they also involve emotional sensibilities of empathy and sympathy
that enable individuals to adequately represent the proper weight of others’ concerns in
tempering their own political positions (Krause, 2008; Morrell, 2010).
This third ingredient of political democracies’ success offers a particularly compelling link to
more democratic models of organizing. Whereas market-based alternatives to hierarchy involve
the promotion of individual autonomy and the diffusion of decision-making across an
organization, more democratic models of organizing seek to empower workers primarily through
their participation in the exercise of collective power, and require of workers a substantial
commitment to negotiating their values and preferences in light of the concerns of others.
Likewise, in the political case, the idea of a “public point of view” involves the requirements of
modifying individual preferences and judgments in light of concerns expressed by others. In
contrast with economic models of political behavior (Downs, 1957), deliberative models of
democracy conceptualize citizens’ freedom in terms of participation in the construction and
negotiation of joint action (Richardson, 2002).
The value of all three conditions above is tightly interdependent and mutually reinforcing. A
good deliberative culture requires the wide adoption of a public point of view because it requires
the ability to constrain the pursuit of self-interest by a respect for others, and by a fidelity to
rational norms that benefit everyone. A public point of view likewise requires a deliberative
culture because individuals are inherently limited in their capacity to identify and accommodate
the public good without deliberative engagement. A structural representation of competing
values creates a diffusion of social power that enables diverse parties to be heard, provides
aggrieved groups with real leverage in pursuing their claims, and backs norms of discourse with
a legally enshrined public recognition of equal status. In this way it helps to sustain attitudes of
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
respect and mutual regard that constitute a public point of view, and provides the basis for a
deliberative culture in which all valid perspectives are taken seriously. A public point of view and
a deliberative culture, at the same time, are instrumental in insuring that legally enshrined powers
such as voting rights, are matched with cultural mechanisms of social influence (the ability to
persuade others, to gain access to positions of power, to develop social capital, etc.). Deliberative
democracy leverages these three features in tandem.
B. Pursuing lessons from the deliberative political model in business
In general form, the political model of deliberative democracy closely resembles organizational
democracy as it has been understood by organizational theorists. Organizational democracy, we
noted, has generally been conceptualized in terms of (a) a broad diffusion of decision rights, (b)
an organizational culture that emphasizes communal or organizational values, and in some cases
(c) employee ownership stakes. The deliberative and voting procedures that one finds in
deliberative democracy provide a reasonable analog of (a), while the importance of a public point
of view and a deliberative culture in the political model of democracy roughly correspond to (b).
The most straightforward analog to (c) is the sense in which all citizens of political democracies
have a clear stake in the outcomes of political decision-making. They are “owners” of their
society in at least that sense.
In its orientation towards the representation and integration of competing values, political
democracy is nonetheless distinct from organizational democracy as it has traditionally been
conceived. That is because, following the conventional logic of business organization, financial
values are presumed to be dominant. On that premise, the pursuit of substantial questions of
value, and the resolution of substantially competing values, are not central organizational
functions. Hence they do not animate principles of institutional design in a significant way. Our
suggestion is that, once we see the project of representing and integrating diverse and potentially
competing values as central to business, the political analogy presents some novel advantages of
democracy in the workplace.
Given limited evidence at this stage, these advantages can only be presented in a speculative,
exploratory spirit. Without offering definitive conclusions or prescriptions, we make some
suggestions which are grounded in evidence from one of the authors’ previous work on social
enterprise, combined with observations drawn from contemporary organizational theory and case
Work integration social enterprises (WISEs) provide a particularly appropriate setting to examine
this issue. WISEs are organizations devoted to helping the long-term unemployed move
successfully back into the workforce. WISEs hire the individuals whom they are trying to help,
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
who then produce goods that are commercially sold, with the revenues going to support the
continuing operation of the organization. WISEs employ social workers who work with their
beneficiaries to provide employment and training, and also employ a managerial staff that keeps
its eye on the bottom line and brings goods into the commercial marketplace. Fulfilling the social
mission in this case requires diverting resources towards beneficiaries’ training and support,
while commercial profitability requires achieving competitive quality and cost control. In this
respect, WISEs present a paradigm case of organizations that depend on the integration of
financial and social values which are often in tension.
In their study of WISEs in France, Battilana et al. (2015) highlight the paradox that WISEs face:
They need to have a social orientation from their inception in order to avoid losing sight of their
social mission. Yet, this orientation risks undermining success in their commercial operations. In
order to understand how WISEs can overcome this paradox, the authors pursue a comparison
between two different WISEs, one of which attained notably superior measures of both social
performance and economic productivity. They observe two crucial features of the successful
WISE that they followed: First, the successful WISE was defined by a clear structural
differentiation of responsibilities and decision-making powers across the social and commercial
divisions of the organization. Social workers in this organization were responsible for the
recruitment, training, and performance appraisal of employees. At the same time, professional
managers with a business background were responsible for handling the sales and production of
Second, in order to manage constant tensions between the two branches of the organization, the
successful WISE relied on a combination of mandatory meetings and formal coordination
processes to negotiate concerns from both sides. Meetings were organized around the articulation
of concerns from business and social constituencies with the goal of enabling them to voice their
respective concerns and of finding a mutually agreeable resolution. Likewise, formal
coordination processes were used to foster successful joint planning on such matters as worker
scheduling, where questions of worker productivity and performance had to be traded off against
the desire to distribute opportunities for the purposes of employee growth. Such a polyarchic
system (Courpasson & Clegg, 2012) in which power is invested in both business and social
constituencies contributes to the creation and maintenance of spaces of negotiation, defined as
arenas of interaction that allow members of each constituency to discuss the trade-offs that they
face (Battilana, Sengul, Pache and Model, 2015).
The two conditions that we highlighted above nicely mirror two of the three features of political
democracy which, above, we argued are crucial to success in the integration of diverse values. In
the political case, there is a structural representation of competing values that is built into the
distribution of formal and informal sources of power. In the successful WISE described above,
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
there is an organizational division of labor into the firm’s social and financial aspects and a
corresponding equal representation of these distinct points of view in the processes by which the
firm makes decisions. In the political case, decision-making proceeds significantly through the
deliberative negotiation of tensions among the various values at stake. Likewise, in the successful
WISE, conflicts between business and social constituencies are confronted and negotiated on an
ongoing basis through deliberative interactions in which concerns from both sides are addressed
through reason-giving and the pooling of information.
In the political case, we suggested that deliberative democracy combines these first two elements
with the wide social adoption of a public point of view. Likewise, in the social enterprise
example under consideration, deliberative and formal interactions between the business and
social sides are governed by a shared desire to modify the distinct objectives of each branch in
light of the overall good of the organization. Much as political communities draw on historical
and cultural narratives to sustain this kind of public ethos, the WISE above was able to facilitate
an orientation to common objectives through an array of socialization mechanisms such as
company retreats, training programs, internal communications, and job shadowing. In the
political case, we argued, a public ethos plays a crucial role in political democracies in enabling
the benefits of deliberative culture and the structural representation of competing values. We
hypothesize that, likewise, an orientation to the overarching good and mission of a firm plays a
parallel role in the success of negotiating competing types of value.
One particularly rich data point in support of this hypothesis is Ashforth and Reingen’s (2014) in-
depth study of the organizational tensions within a natural food cooperative. The cooperative’s
mission displayed the paradigm characteristics of a hybrid organization. It was devoted to
advancing social values of justice, peace, environmental sustainability, and democratic
governance. And yet, at the same time, the cooperative depended on profits as a successful
commercial enterprise, and a majority of its customers were non-coop members. As Ashforth and
Reingen detail in depth, the conflict between these two aims was a constant source of tension
among the membership, and manifested itself in the clustering of members into “idealist” and
“pragmatist” groups which, roughly speaking, placed greater priority on social and commercial
values respectively. The coop was nonetheless able to weather – and even benefit from – these
tensions as a consequence of a shared commitment to the overarching mission of the
organization: a commercially self-sustaining grocery business that nonetheless remained faithful
to considerations of justice and sustainability. That mission was ingrained in members through
substantial socialization processes, and was regularly invoked in governance meetings as a way of
ameliorating conflict.
Interestingly, unlike the WISE case, the coop was not defined by a strict differentiation of roles
across the social/financial divide. Members nonetheless self-sorted into groups that placed a
higher priority on these distinct dimensions and regular, intensive deliberative meetings were the
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
means through which these self-selecting groups worked to integrate their different perspectives
towards a common purpose. Another notable feature of the coop case for our purposes is that, on
Ashforth and Reingens analysis, one of the crucial means by which the organization preserved
its operational unity was through the regular cycling of power between the pragmatist and idealist
camps. In this respect, the coop reveals a structural differentiation of power that forced both
groups to accommodate the other’s concerns through the exercise of equal decision-making
Both of these cases broadly conform to core ideas of organizational democracy as traditionally
conceived. They employ a broad diffusion of decision rights and leverage a deliberative culture
that emphasizes some form of communal identity. What they draw from the political analogy,
however, is a distinctive model of implementing these conditions that is calibrated to the
representation and negotiation of values. Thus, a “broad diffusion of decision rights” amounts to
distributing decision rights in such a way that meaningful decision power is spread across
individuals whose work is animated by different value schemes. In the WISE case, this value
division mapped very neatly on to role-differentiation within the organization, and thus the
organization’s crucial feature is a division of decision-power across social and financial roles. In
the coop case, however, the relevant value-divisions were spread much more dynamically across
various roles within the organization, and thus effective value representation involved a more
generic form of egalitarian voting rights for individuals.
The WISE example illustrates particularly nicely why a wide diffusion of powers and
participation is important in the business context. In that case, tensions between social and
financial values play out in a highly localized way, at the level of individuals doing their daily
work. Thus, in working with employees/clients, the firm’s social workers must be responsive to
their particular skill set, the particular difficulties of scheduling and evaluating them, and their
specific path to development in the labor market. Likewise, on the financial side, managers must
be responsive to a constantly changing commercial marketplace, new technologies, new
competitors, etc. In this context, success in the firm’s overall mission is dependent on
understanding how the tension among its values plays out in its daily work. And that, in turn,
requires at least the need for substantial, ongoing consultation with employees doing this work.
Structurally empowering them – through formal and informal powers of participation – is, in
effect, a way of ensuring that decision-making is genuinely responsive to the full spectrum of
relevant concerns.
With respect to culture, both the WISE and the coop very deliberately created an environment in
which difficult confrontations between value orientations were central to organizational life. At
the same time, they worked from a strongly cultivated ethos of shared organizational mission to
negotiate these differences. Whereas historical models of organizational democracy were largely
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
oriented towards communal ideals of class solidarity, the examples discussed here involve a
fidelity to a more abstract notion of the organization and its objectives. “Community” in this
context is grounded, not in some model of fraternity (as in politics), nor in interests (as in an
identity of economic class); it is grounded in a shared sense of a common purpose that is
believed to be worthwhile.
Our suggestion is thus not that a broad diffusion of powers is strictly necessary in this context;
rather, our suggestion is that hybrid organizing – whether in social enterprises or in corporations
that engage in corporate social responsibility – tends to foster a certain kind of dynamic
complexity in decision-making challenges, and that managing this kind of complexity, in turn,
requires a responsiveness to the diverse information and experience of employees in pursuing a
firm’s mission. In this respect, our argument for organizational democracy connects nicely with
some of the more general arguments against hierarchy canvassed above. Hierarchies, we
observed, are best suited to static, routinized work environments, but confront distinct challenges
in contexts that require employees to adapt quickly and dynamically to changing conditions. If we
are correct that the integration of financial and social values tends to create dynamic complexity
in the work environment for individual workers, then that would provide a clear rationale against
The deliberative model of organizational democracy can also be helpfully contrasted with
market-based approaches which, as we discussed earlier, prioritize the individual autonomy of
workers in the sense of minimizing interference with their workplace activities. Market-based
approaches seek to benefit from the initiative and creativity of workers who are free to make
decisions about how best to pursue the objectives defined by their workplace role. On this
approach, the ongoing attempt to negotiate one’s activities by reference to the concerns and
practices of others is a transaction cost that undermines efficiency, even if it is not entirely
avoidable. On a market approach, thus, the deliberative negotiation of workplace aims is
minimized and, likewise, the dominant ethos is one of individual initiative and “self-
management” rather than participation in joint action.
Oticon, a European manufacturer of hearing devices, and Valve, a leading developer of computer
games, provide a case in point. In the 1990s, Oticon became famous for adopting a market-based
organizational design that it called the “spaghetti organization.” Valve also has earned
recognition for adopting a similar design. The basic premise of both designs is that the
organizational hierarchy was drastically reduced and employees could now self-organize into
projects of their own choosing rather than be assigned to projects by managers (Foss, 2003;
Wingfield, 2012). At Oticon and Valve, the actions and preferences of individuals were
coordinated not by the authority of managers, nor a deliberative process of negotiation and
integration, but by the mechanism of supply and demand. The ideas that attracted the greatest
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
demand won out. By contrast, organizational democracy emphasizes that coordinated actions be
shaped by a process of deliberation about the shared objectives and activities of the firm. Such an
approach enables organizations to simultaneously pursue social and financial objectives, while
not losing sight of one of them.
It is worth observing that, in principle, the logic that we have advanced in favor of democracy is
not limited to hybrid organizing. Even within a traditional for-profit framework, businesses must
juggle a variety of local objectives that are often in tension, at least in the short-term. Should an
organization invest more in research and development, or should it push those resources towards
marketing its existing products? Should it prioritize cost reduction or employee development?
Etc. There is significant research suggesting that diversifying deliberative input is, in general, a
vital route to answering well-defined questions like these (Page, 2007).
While we do not deny the promise of such arguments, we wish to underscore what is distinctive
about the challenge that hybrid organizing presents. In the kinds of dilemmas just described, a
firm can pursue the reconciliation of competing local objectives by reference to an over-arching
aim: the maximization of profit. Such dilemmas thus become questions of instrumental
rationality, i.e., the most efficient means to a pre-determined end. In contrast, hybrid
organizations must negotiate competing goals in a context where there is no pre-determined aim
or standard available to govern their resolution. The question of how to integrate social and
financial objectives is thus a question principally about the ends which ought to be adopted.
Democracy, in this context, is a process through which diverse perspectives are recruited for the
continual interpretation and reinterpretation of such “ultimate” or overarching ends. And the
distinctive value of democracy here is not only that diverse sources of information are, in general,
useful. It is that the expressions of tensions between social and financial objectives are
sufficiently diverse that it requires ongoing consultation with individuals occupying the full
plurality of organizational roles.
Section 5: Challenges for the model and future research directions
We have tried above to do two things: first, to establish the dominance of non-democratic
approaches (both hierarchical and market-based) to business organization in recent decades and,
second, to argue that recent trends in the business world give us reason to reconsider the merits
of organizational democracy against non-democratic alternatives. Drawing on some salient
merits of political democracy, we argued that a deliberative democratic approach plausibly
captures those merits in the case of the workplace, and provides a viable framework for pursuing
the merits of more democratic models of organizing.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
Ultimately, this argument must be put to an empirical test, to examine whether more democratic
designs better enable hybrid organizations to balance multiple objectives than traditional
hierarchical designs or even non-democratic alternatives to hierarchy. As more organizations
search for alternatives to traditional hierarchical designs, we believe that such empirical research
will become both possible and incredibly important.
We close by first articulating what we see as the most significant challenges associated with the
organizational democracy. Each of these challenges raises a series of puzzles and questions that
call for further research on more democratic ways of organizing and their implications for
enterprises that pursue multiple objectives. Second, we highlight the potential role of new
technologies in addressing these challenges. Last but not least, we discuss how well more
democratic models of organizing may generalize to the full spectrum of business models across
various industries and institutional contexts.
A. Challenges
(i). Can organizations that adopt a deliberative democratic approach achieve sufficient
efficiency to compete in the marketplace?
The answer to this question depends in part on what value proposition structures the relevant
marketplace competition. Nothing we have said above is directly responsive to the concern that
democracy entails transaction costs that undermine financial efficiency relative to alternatives.
Deliberative democracy is nothing if not costly by way of transactions. However, we have argued
for the merits of the deliberative approach in a context where the value proposition is
fundamentally different. Hybrid organizing requires responsiveness to the value of financial
efficiency alongside social concerns. Our argument is that, given that value proposition, more
democratic models of organizing may have significant advantages relative to alternatives.
Whether or not those advantages are decisive remains an open question. It might very well turn
out that, in general, the costs to financial efficiency are typically so significant as to outweigh
those advantages. Nonetheless, that question cannot be decided by appealing to arguments from a
non-hybrid context. We need more research across industries and countries to properly address
this question.
(ii). Can democratic cultures be created and maintained in organizations?
Deliberative democratic cultures are difficult to create. First, they require an egalitarian ethos that
involves the challenge of changing power structures. Argyris, in studying many organizational
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
efforts to empower employees, notes that most efforts to change power structures fail because
neither managers nor employees are sure they want empowerment. Often efforts to reduce
hierarchy serve to highlight the persistence of hierarchy either through the emergence of a new
hierarchy or the re-emergence of the previous hierarchy (Courpasson & Clegg, 2006; Barker,
1993; Argyris, 1998). For example, paying particular attention to the interplay of formal and
informal dynamics, Diefenbach and Sillince (2011) find that hierarchies persist and thrive even in
seemingly alternative forms of organization –representative democratic, postmodern, and
network organizational forms. Several keen observers argue that successfully achieving an
egalitarian ethos within organizations requires special personal qualities such as wisdom,
maturity, or higher orders of consciousness (Hackman, 2002; Argyris, 1999; Kegan, 1998) that
are rare. Together, these writings convey the point that organizational hierarchy is a deeply rooted
social tendency that resists easy change. Further research is needed on how hierarchical power
relations in organizations can be changed sustainably, (Diefenbach & Sillince, 2011; Nelson,
Second, a deliberative approach to democratic organizing requires fostering a shared identity that
necessitates overcoming well-documented tendencies for social groups to cleave apart. Classic
research in social identity theory highlights how even minimal and trivial distinctions between
randomly assigned subgroups reliably lead to competitive or discriminatory responses towards
members randomly assigned to the outgroup (Tajfel & Turner, 2007). From a psychodynamic
perspective – as exhibited in the Ashforth and Reingen (2014) food coop study which we
discussed above – groups facing internal tensions often split or disown parts of themselves that
are troublesome. They then project these negative feelings or attributes onto a subgroup that is
held responsible for the relevant problems. These different studies suggest how easily social
divisions and conflicts emerge that pose challenges to adopting the sense of common concern
critical for democratic forms of organizing. Future research will thus need to examine whether,
and if so, how more democratic models of organizing can be implemented and sustained.
Third, research suggests that the ideal of rational deliberative discourse in which deliberation
leads to the tempering of viewpoints and the integration of new knowledge is an ideal that is
difficult (though hardly impossible) to achieve in practice. This is well documented in the
political context (Carpini et al., 2004; Sunstein, 2003), and one only needs to look at the current
state of political discourse in the United States for evidence that a deliberative culture is not
guaranteed, even in a society with a strongly democratic culture. Furthermore, research on voice
and psychological safety highlights the struggle that organizations and teams encounter in
seeking to learn from and integrate multiple viewpoints, because individuals often fail to speak
up with critical information or defer to those with higher power or status (Edmondson, 1999;
Milliken & Morrison, 2003). From an information processing perspective, research in
confirmation bias highlights how individuals filter information to support their pre-existing
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
beliefs, enabling individuals to stubbornly cling to beliefs even in the face of contradictory
evidence (Mercier & Sperber, 2011; Nickerson, 1998).
Furthermore, research in groupthink and premature closure suggests that the act of integrating
and negotiating conflicting viewpoints or values is a stressful and aversive experience that can
lead groups to prematurely adopt a dominant viewpoint as a way of satisfying a need for closure
or certainty (Esser, 1998; Kruglanski et al., 2006). Finally, as they engage in these negotiations,
employees may not act in the organization’s best interest during deliberative decision-making
processes due to political considerations that are inherent to organizational life (Pfeffer, 1981).
Even if they are willing to act in the organization’s best interest, they may lack the exposure,
training, or experience to understand “the big picture” (Harrison & Freeman, 2004). Future
research will thus need to explore whether, and if so, how socialization processes and systems,
including training and incentive systems, can enhance employees’ willingness and ability to
participate in productive deliberations that are a critical component of democratic models.
(iii). Can democratic organizing scale?
Our analysis has drawn heavily on a select few examples of relatively small organizations. But
what would it mean for a very large organization to implement the deliberative democratic
model? How would it determine which employees should be part of which conversations? And
how, ultimately, would decisions get made?
One possible model is offered by a recent organizational design innovation called Holacracy
(Robertson, 2015). Holacracy is a management system that democratizes the decisions of how
workgroups are organized. Individuals in this system are able to propose changes to their
workgroup’s structure, such as creating, amending, or deleting roles, work accountabilities and
policies relevant for their workgroup(s). Authority for these types of design decisions are
typically held by only the most senior executives in most organizations. But in Holacracy, the
ability to participate in these decisions is distributed to the entire organization.
Holacracy has been adopted in both small and larger organizations (the largest of which employs
1,500 employees). One of the authors has intensively studied the adoption of Holacracy in an
organization and found that three unique features of Holacracy may enable such democratized
decisions to occur at scale. The first critical feature of Holocracy critical to its scalability is a
highly structured discussion and deliberation process. Within Holacracy, formal “governance
meetings” are called where changes to a workgroup’s structure are proposed and discussed.
The structured process is designed to ensure that relevant information and input is offered on
each proposal and that proposals that may cause harm will not pass. However, the highly
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
structured nature of the discussion process helps to ensure that everyone participates and that
these discussions do not take up too much time. In addition, the operative decision-rule does not
require consensus; instead, it merely requires the absence of objections. This shifts the default
presumption from inertia to change, making such changes easier, and yet still provides a way for
the group to stop proposals that might cause harm.
A second feature that is critical to enabling democratized decisions to occur at scale in Holacracy
is a clear delineation of the domains in which individuals can effect change. In Holacracy,
individuals are able to propose changes only in the workgroup to which they belong. In cases
requiring exceptions, representatives from a workgroup can be granted a formal decision role in
another workgroup, thus enabling individuals’ influence in other matters that are relevant to them
while limiting the membership in each workgroup’s deliberation process.
A third important factor enabling the scaling of democratized decisions in Holacracy is the
existence of an organizational constitution. The process by which structural decisions are
discussed and made are codified in a document called the “Constitution.” This document
explicitly lays out the rules by which such changes are discussed and decided upon which
increases the likelihood that such rules are consistently understood and applied throughout a
large organization.
Holacracy offers one possible model for how a deliberative approach could be implemented at
scale. However, further research is required on such models of organizing, and more specifically,
on the tools, processes and systems that could enable democratic decision-making at scale to be
sustained in organizational contexts.
B. The role of technology
Does new information and communications technology (ICT) have the potential to help
organizations overcome obstacles to the implementation of deliberative democratic models that
we discussed above? ICT has undeniably changed the way people work together. Some argue that
ICT even makes the traditional, hierarchical way of organizing obsolete (Hedlund, 1994). Indeed,
observers have remarked that new digital technologies are leading to new organizational forms
with fewer boundaries and less hierarchy (Fulk & DeSanctis, 1995; Davis, 2016a; Davis, 2016b).
The intraorganizational dimensions that Fulk and DeSanctis (1995) identify that are changing in
response to electronic communication technologies include horizontal coordination,
communication cultures, and ownership, which our three dimensions of organizational
democracy echo (namely, decision rights, organizational cuture and ownership stakes). While
such views do not necessarily imply the emergence of democratic forms of organization, it is not
a stretch to presume that the emergence of new technologies could enable a deliberative
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
approach, especially when we are considering scaling such designs. Scholars have made parallel
suggestions in the political case (Sunstein, 2001).
ICT has been shown to facilitate lateral communication, support coordination and collaboration
across space and time, and lead to more decentralized decision-making within firms (Fulk et al.,
1995; Ahuja et al., 1999; Argyres, 1999; Kirkman et al., 2004; Hamel, 2011; Briscoe, 2007;
Fjeldstad et al., 2012). In facilitating information sharing, ICT can also enable organizations to
tap into the collective intelligence within and outside organizations (Pinsonneault & Kraemer,
1997; Bonabeau, 2009). Studying the case of IBM’s “Innovation Ham,” Bjelland and Wood
(2008) describe how digital tools can enable employees to take ownership of their projects and
think outside the box. By making decentralized decision-making easier and helping to leverage
collective intelligence, ICT can contribute to setting some of the conditions that are necessary for
more democratic ways of organizing to be developed and sustained.
Yet it would be naïve to believe that technology will automatically dislodge underlying power
structures in organizations. For example, in studying how a major Scandinavian automotive
company implemented an electronic business system, Eriksson-Zetterquist and Styhre (2009)
find that the new electronic system actually increased hierarchy in the company. Echoing this set
of findings, Pfeffer (2013) argues that the proliferation of technologies may mask the persistent
reality of organizational hierarchy. The question that arises is thus to know whether, and if so,
under what conditions ICT can help develop and sustain more democratic ways of organizing.
Such research will no doubt have critical implications for organizations as ICT is becoming
increasingly pervasive in most aspects of organizational life.
C. Generalizability
Having discussed the challenges that more democratic models of organizing face as well as the
extent to which new technologies may help address these challenges, we now need to consider
the extent to which our argument extends beyond the hybrid case to the full spectrum of business
models across institutional contexts. While this is an open question, we suggest that rather than
think of organizations in terms of a binary of traditional versus hybrid models, we should think in
terms of degrees of hybrid organizing. At one end of the spectrum are firms that pursue financial
objectives as their dominant, exclusive goal, and pursue social values only to the extent that such
values serve financial objectives (this might be the case for companies that have corporate social
responsibility divisions which function primarily as a public relations arm). At the other end of
that spectrum are firms that give a fundamental, primary role to social values alongside financial
concerns, and that are explicitly attuned to the tension between these values. In between is a wide
range of possible configurations.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
In the present business climate, as an increasing number of firms claim that they pursue a double
or triple bottom line (financial, social, and environmental), hybrid organizing may be becoming
the norm rather than the exception. This trend, we argue, raises new questions about the
organizational forms needed to foster and sustain these multiple objectives. We expect that in
cases where the social/financial tension is deepest, the relevance of the democratic model will be
Similarly, we suggest that the three elements that characterize the deliberative approach lend
themselves to degrees of implementation. Rather than thinking of organizational democracy as a
binary, we suggest that an ideal of democratization would be more analytically fruitful.
It is important to note that in addressing all the research questions that we highlighted in this
section, future studies will need to account not only for organizational characteristics but also for
characteristics of the institutional environment in which organizations are embedded. It may be
that some institutional environments have characteristics that enable the creation and
maintenance of more democratic models of organizing. Legal rights for workers to participate in
corporate management vary greatly across the globe with some being anti-democratic, and others
facilitating workers’ participation. A well-known example of a participative system is co-
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rights to information, consultation, and negotiation (Addison et al., 2001). Future research will
need to examine the role that such institutional arrangements play in the development and
sustainability of democratic models of organizing.
While more democratic models of organizing might not have been effective at a time when
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one dimension), we argue that we might have reached a turning point. As an ever increasing
number of organizations – be they social enterprises or corporations – engage in hybrid
organizing and pursue a triple bottom line, we propose that more democratic models of
organizing may become a better fit. This is because they have the capacity to better represent and
integrate diverse and competing values in decision-making processes than hierarchical models
and market-oriented ones.
Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, “New Prospects for Organizational Democracy?”
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... They are somewhat in conflict, yet they can or even must be combined due to nonprofit-specific institutional pressures. We focus on these two logics because they are widespread, and thus problems of their conflicts and combinations are particularly relevant for NPOs (Battilana et al., 2018;Maier & Meyer, 2011;Weber et al., 2009). ...
... Accordingly, elections of board members, participatory decision-making, egalitarian information-sharing, and other forms of participation are examples of democratic organizational practices. As Battilana et al. (2018) demonstrate in their literature review, organizational democracy has been gravely neglected in organization studies for a long time, with very few studies focusing on topics such as decision rights, the right and obligation to participate, or democratic ownership stakes, e.g., in cooperatives and employee-owned organizations. Battilana et al. (2018) argue that democratic practices of organizing will rise when social objectives become relevant or even predominant, as in nonprofits that strive to represent diverse values and foster a deliberate culture. ...
... As Battilana et al. (2018) demonstrate in their literature review, organizational democracy has been gravely neglected in organization studies for a long time, with very few studies focusing on topics such as decision rights, the right and obligation to participate, or democratic ownership stakes, e.g., in cooperatives and employee-owned organizations. Battilana et al. (2018) argue that democratic practices of organizing will rise when social objectives become relevant or even predominant, as in nonprofits that strive to represent diverse values and foster a deliberate culture. ...
Conference Paper
Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) make vital contributions to society. Providing essential services, engaging in advocacy, or strengthening communities, NPOs, however, face the challenge of pursuing a social mission while concurrently operating and meeting the demands of a market economy. The resulting tendency of NPOs to adopt characteristics from the business world has been a contested topic in nonprofit management studies; scholarly views on underlying theoretical mechanisms are often vague and rather weakly supported by empirical data. Drawing on survey data of nearly 600 NPOs in the metropolitan region of Vienna (Austria) and employing structural equation modeling, we examine how configurations of organizational practices, specifically managerial and democratic practices, are associated with NPOs’ emphasis on societal roles of service delivery, advocacy, and community building. Our analysis reveals that configurations of organizational practices are a part of institutional logics that unfold distinctive interpretation frame effects. We find that managerial practices are positively related to an emphasis on service delivery and advocacy, whereas organizational democracy is positively related to community building but negatively related to service delivery. The implications and significance of these results for nonprofit management practice and future research are discussed.
... OD literature is also promising for discussing the blue and gray collar employees' inclusion in strategic management. OD rejects hierarchical organizations and offers more flatter forms characterized by diffusion of decision making power (Battilana, Fuerstein, & Lee, 2018;Getz, 2009). The rule of democratic decision making facilitates equal decision rights for all employees and managers (Adobor, 2020), including employees in both operational and strategic decision making processes (de Jong & van Witteloostuijn, 2007) through institutionalizing employee participation (Verdorfer, Weber, Unterrainer, & Seyr, 2013). ...
... The rule of democratic decision making facilitates equal decision rights for all employees and managers (Adobor, 2020), including employees in both operational and strategic decision making processes (de Jong & van Witteloostuijn, 2007) through institutionalizing employee participation (Verdorfer, Weber, Unterrainer, & Seyr, 2013). OD emphasizes collective decision making (Battilana et al., 2018) where employees have some real control on SP, goal setting and decision making; in a way that converges organizational and individual goals and objectives (Foley & Polanyi, 2006). There is variation on OD practices regarding what kind of rights to be democratized. ...
... There is variation on OD practices regarding what kind of rights to be democratized. While some organizations limit this right within the realm of employees' own work, some grant authority to their employees in strategic decision making level (Battilana et al., 2018). ...
... Ces réflexions s'inscrivent dans une montée d'organisations alternatives par rapport au modèle hiérarchique (Lee et al., 2018 Face à cette situation, les entreprises libérées et autres nouvelles modes managériales (Endenburg, 1998b ;Getz, 2009 ;Robertson, 2016) présentent un discours autogestionnaire et démocratique Mattelin-Pierrard et al., 2020). Alors que ces modèles proposent une réduction de la ligne hiérarchique « entreprise opale » (Laloux, 2015), « entreprise libérée » (Carney & Getz, 2016 ;Peters, 1993), « sociocratie » (Bockelbrink et al., 2015 ;Buck & Endenburg, 2004 ;Charest, 2007 ;Endenburg, 1998b ;Romme, 1995), « holacratie » (Robertson, 2016) ou encore « organisation spaghetti » (Foss, 2003 Texier, 2016). ...
... Cette approche agonistique de la dégénérescence, en particulier par l'étude d'une entreprise de l'ESS associée à l'entreprise libérée, souligne un nouveau phénomène peu mis en lumière dans la littérature. La « loi d'airain de l'oligarchie » (Michels, 1914) est ainsi moins une loi naturelle (Diefenbach, 2019), basée sur des éléments d'ordre psychologique ou d'une nécessité organisationnelle, qu'un phénomène conditionné (Rothschild-Whitt, 1979) (Johnson, 2006 ;Lee et al., 2018). ...
... Ces deux phénomènes légitiment in fine l'émergence d'une oligarchie constituée d'une minorité des membres et l'apathie d'une majorité(Mouffe, 2014(Mouffe, , 2016, c'est-à-dire la dépolitisation de l'entreprise et de son organisation derrière un discours d'experts. Finalement, les organisations non-hiérarchiques ne résolvent pas le processus de dégénérescence, comme proposé par la littérature(Lee et al., 2018). Elles sont mises à mal par leur propre création : le pluralisme organisationnel.8.3. ...
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Cette recherche porte sur l’association de deux objets de gestion : l’entreprise de l’ESS, à la gouvernance démocratique, et l’entreprise libérée, prônant une organisation managériale libératrice et émancipatrice. Alors que le fonctionnement démocratique de la première semble condamner à la dégénérescence par la littérature, nous montrons que ce déterminisme s’appuie sur un impensé : une organisation démocratique du travail. Parallèlement, l’entreprise libérée, dernière mode managériale contemporaine, est amplement critiquée par la littérature scientifique. En particulier, nous montrons que ses partisans se sont contentés d’une « libération » de l’organisation du travail. Il existe de fait un plafond de verre de la gouvernance d’entreprise. Ces deux catégories organisationnelles semblent donc complémentaires et leur association constitue une réunion originale pour repenser l’organisation et la gestion de l’entreprise. Pour étudier le potentiel démocratique de cet objet de gestion unique, cette recherche mobilise une double approche théorique démocratique : les communs et l’agonisme. D’un point de vue empirique, nous nous appuyons sur une étude de deux cas d’entreprise : un supermarché coopératif, mettant en place une organisation sociocratique et holacratique, et une entreprise sociale du secteur de l’aide à domicile, entreprise commerciale de l’ESS organisée par équipe autonome. Cette thèse propose une triple contribution. Tout d’abord, nous analysons le potentiel démocratique d’une ouverture de la gouvernance au sein de l’entreprise libérée. Ensuite, nous contribuons à approfondir le fonctionnement démocratique des entreprises de l’ESS. Plus précisément, cette thèse permet de réexaminer la théorie de la dégénérescence. Enfin, nous dévoilons des conditions, des effets et des enjeux d’une démocratisation organisationnelle de l’entreprise.
... The issue of organizational and workplace democracy (Harrison & Freeman, 2004) has received renewed attention over the past years (Goodman & Arenas, 2015;Scherer, 2015;Schneider & Scherer, 2015;Stansbury, 2009). Whereas Landemore and Ferreras (2015) call for giving workers a more significant say in corporate decision-making, Battilana, Fuerstein, and Lee (2018) suggest that deliberative forms of corporate governance are particularly promising for organizations that aim to pursue multiple objectives at the same time (Mitchell, Weaver, Agle, Bailey, & Carlson, 2016). Battilana et al. (2018) suggest that insights from research on hybrid organizing (Battilana & Lee, 2014;Besharov & Smith, 2014) show that deliberation within the firm can assist organizations to navigate the tensions between financial and social objectives. ...
... Whereas Landemore and Ferreras (2015) call for giving workers a more significant say in corporate decision-making, Battilana, Fuerstein, and Lee (2018) suggest that deliberative forms of corporate governance are particularly promising for organizations that aim to pursue multiple objectives at the same time (Mitchell, Weaver, Agle, Bailey, & Carlson, 2016). Battilana et al. (2018) suggest that insights from research on hybrid organizing (Battilana & Lee, 2014;Besharov & Smith, 2014) show that deliberation within the firm can assist organizations to navigate the tensions between financial and social objectives. Several recent studies suggest that hybrid organizations use deliberative elements like negotiation (Castellas, Stubbs, & Ambrosini, 2019) as well as democratic and consensus-building voting procedures (Mitzinneck & Besharov, 2019) to successfully respond to tensions caused by a plurality of objectives. ...
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This introduction argues that the use of the concept of deliberative democracy in corporate social responsibility (CSR) research needs to be theoretically extended. We review three developments that have recently occurred in deliberative democracy theory within political science and philos-ophy: 1) the conceptualization of deliberative systems (macro level), 2) the considerations of mini-publics (micro level), and 3) the role of online deliberation. We discuss the challenges and prospects that incorporating these three developments into future CSR-related research creates. We thereby also introduce the articles in this special issue and show how they connect to each of the three developments. On the basis of this discussion, we outline the contours for a more gen-eral program of distributed deliberative CSR that enables CSR scholars to incorporate an updated understanding of deliberative democracy theory into their future work.
... Regarding differences in leadership characteristics, in line with H 4 , SE leaders were perceived higher in servant leadership and two components of transformational leadership (idealised influence and individualised consideration). This provides additional support for the perceived importance of 'doing good' in SE that includes social value creation and implies a caring attitude towards one's own staff (Battilana et al., 2018). Furthermore, social entrepreneurs are sometimes referred to as 'heroic individuals' (Matsushima & Kijima, 2019) explaining their higher scores in idealised influence. ...
Full-text available
Social enterprises (SEs) strive for the fulfilment of a social mission based on an elaborated income strategy. Consequently, they are largely conceptualised as hybrid enterprises combining logics of traditional non-profit organisations (NPOs) and for-profit enterprises (FPEs). This is sound on the organisational level; however, it remains unclear to which extent the perception of SE leaders on the personal level mirrors this hybridity as previous studies are limited in scope and methodology. Our work examines perceived personality traits, work-related values, leadership styles and leader attributes of SE leaders compared to FPE and NPO leaders. Using a vignette-based, comprehensive experimental design with a sample of business students ( N = 170), we find that whereas notable differences in personality and leadership comparing SE and FPE leaders exist, SE and NPO leaders were perceived as not different. Based on our findings, theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... 13 Saleem (2015). 14 Battilana et al. (2018). between democratic and traditional firms to assess profitability and other features as well. ...
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Bringing democracy to the workplace has gained researchers’ attention during the last few years. In addition to its proorganizational outcomes, democratization at the workplace also helps to eradicate organizational negativities. The present study investigates these claims by empirically examining the relationship between organizational democracy, perception of politics, and workplace incivility. A sample of 300 full-time employees working in fifteen different banks in the district of Gujrat Pakistan was obtained. The structural equation modeling technique was used to test the proposed hypotheses. The results indicated that workplace democracy is negatively associated with the perception of organizational politics and workplace incivility. Nevertheless, when there is organizational democracy with a supportive environment, it further reduces its incivility and politics. The study provides empirical evidence to managers and organizational decision makers in developing democratic workplaces to promote participative culture and eradicate organizational negativities. More studies on democratic practices with different contexts and factors are discussed and proposed for future studies.
... Such distinctive ideology and its attendant practices are, however, difficult to maintain over time due to both internal dynamics and external pressures pushing participatory organizations to prioritize financial concerns at the expense of democratic governance (Bonin et al., 1993;Latinne, 2014;Meister, 1984;Miyazaki, 1984;Potter, 1891;Simons & Ingram, 1997). Participatory organizations also face pressures for increased hierarchization, specialization of roles and tasks, and commensurate salaries and working conditions, conveyed by external actors such as public authorities, the educational system, the media, but also often by the workers themselves (Battilana et al., 2018;Pansera & Rizzi, 2020;. ...
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Cooperatives have always lived on the edge of established categories, disrupting and disorganizing prevailing cultural, political, and institutional arrangements on the basis of alternative practices organized around normative values like democracy, autonomy, participation, equality, and solidarity. This chapter investigates how ideologiesIdeology help cooperatives resist dominant institutional patternsDominant institutional patterns and preserve their distinctiveness over time. In order to do so, it draws on an in-depth ethnographic studyEthnographic studyof CecosesolaCecosesola, a long-lasting Venezuelan second-tier cooperativeSecond-tier cooperative that has nurtured radical self-managementRadical self-management for several decades. The chapter makes a threefold contribution. First, it contributes to a key debate within institutional theoryInstitutional theory concerning how alternative organizationsAlternative organizations resist institutional pressures towards conformityInstitutional pressures, by describing the process through which alternative organizations make a virtue of nurturing their distinctive organizing patternsDistinctive organizing patterns and deliberately shield them from the influence of dominant institutionsDominant institutions. Second, it contributes to the literature on organizational ideologyOrganizational ideology, by unveiling the conditions under which a radically distinctive ideologyRadically distinctive ideology may be created, sustained, and reproduced over time within the boundaries of a participatory organizationParticipatory organization. Third, it contributes to the debate on the degeneration of participatory organizationsDegeneration of participatory organizations, by unveiling how the development of a strong ideologyDevelopment of a strong ideology contributes to protecting workplace democracyProtecting workplace democracy against external and internal forces leading to the erosion of participation.
... Moreover, it is an idea developed around the human potential of the organization to achieve organizational goals (Fenton, 2011). Providing broadbased participation with the institutionalization of the effects of the organization members is the most basic features of democratically structured organizations (Wegge et al., 2010;Battilana, Fuerstein, Lee, 2018). Increasing participation with the democratization of organizations increases stakeholder feelings of satisfaction, responsibility and commitment; regeneration and change accelerate; performance improves; discordant employee behavior decreases (Butcher, Clarke, 2002;Harrison, Freeman, 2004;Matten, Crane, 2005;Redburn, Buss, 2006;Yazdani, 2006;Fenton, 2011;Fenton, 2012;Wang, 2018;Bilge, Barbuta-Misu, Virlanuta, Guven, 2020). ...
Social capital is the constructive potential of motivation, initiative and activation that emerges in the context of trust, solidarity, collaboration and goodwill. The potential for social capital to generate benefits for both individuals and organizations makes it worth investigating in order to better understand the processes that bring it into existence. This research assumes that democratic sub-processes in the organizational context will contribute to the development of social capital. Democracy, as an ideal of humanity, can contribute to the development of social capital since it allows people to express their own ideas, takes them into account, offers negotiation conditions in line with ethical and fair principles, requires information sharing and gives confidence. Commitment to democratic values in school management can make individuals feel safe and facilitate relationships. Therefore, this research aims to investigate the effects of democratic practices such as critical participation, transparency, justice, equality and accountability on the development of social capital. Research findings offer important implications for the effects of democratic processes on social capital development.
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