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A Humanistic Perspective for Management Theory: Protecting Dignity and Promoting Well-Being

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The notion of dignity as that which has intrinsic value has arguably been neglected in economics and management despite its societal importance and eminent relevance in other social sciences. While management theory gained parsimony, this paper argues that the inclusion of dignity in the theoretical precepts of management theory will: (a) improve management theory in general, (b) align it more directly with the public interest, and (c) strengthen its connection to social welfare creation. The paper outlines the notion of dignity, discusses its historical understanding, and explains its relevance in the context of management theory. Furthermore, it proposes a framework of paradigmatic assumptions along two dimensions: (a) understanding human dignity as unconditional or conditional and (b) understanding social welfare as wealth creation or well-being creation. I propose alternative management theory archetypes and discuss these archetypes’ theoretical implications for management research. I also suggest how management theory can be shifted to contribute toward social welfare creation more directly.
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Journal of Business Ethics (2019) 159:39–57
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3755-4
ORIGINAL PAPER
A Humanistic Perspective forManagement Theory: Protecting Dignity
andPromoting Well‑Being
MichaelPirson1
Received: 19 April 2017 / Accepted: 23 November 2017 / Published online: 12 December 2017
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017
Abstract
The notion of dignity as that which has intrinsic value has arguably been neglected in economics and management despite its
societal importance and eminent relevance in other social sciences. While management theory gained parsimony, this paper
argues that the inclusion of dignity in the theoretical precepts of management theory will: (a) improve management theory
in general, (b) align it more directly with the public interest, and (c) strengthen its connection to social welfare creation. The
paper outlines the notion of dignity, discusses its historical understanding, and explains its relevance in the context of man-
agement theory. Furthermore, it proposes a framework of paradigmatic assumptions along two dimensions: (a) understanding
human dignity as unconditional or conditional and (b) understanding social welfare as wealth creation or well-being creation.
I propose alternative management theory archetypes and discuss these archetypes’ theoretical implications for management
research. I also suggest how management theory can be shifted to contribute toward social welfare creation more directly.
Keywords Humanistic management· Economism· Humanism· Dignity· Well-being
“The general objective of the
Academy shall be therefore
to foster: a) a philosophy of
management that will make
possible the accomplishment
of the economic and social
objectives of an industrial
society with increasing economy
and effectiveness: the public’s
interests must be paramount in
any such philosophy, but adequate
consideration must be given to the
legitimate interests of capital and
labor…..”
Editor’s preface, Journal of the
Academy of Management, 1958,
1(1): 5–6.
Introduction
Despite the Academy of Management’s (AOM) mission and
objective to “foster [] a philosophy of management” that
serves “the public’s interests” (Editors 1958) management
scholarship’ contribution to the public good has arguably
been neglected (Walsh etal. 2003). Already 20years ago
AOM’s then president, Donald Hambrick, remarked about
the lack of relevance of AOM’s work to society (Hambrick
1994). This tendency has been bemoaned with increasing
frequency (Aguinis and Pierce 2008; Hambrick 1994; Pir-
son and Lawrence 2010; Waddock 2015, 2016; Walsh etal.
2003), because very few contributions discuss managerial
solutions to environmental degradation, the dangers of cli-
mate change, or increasing social inequities1 (Hahn etal.
2010; Hambrick 1994). Witnessing this lack and the inabil-
ity of current theorists to develop cohesive and substantive
answers leads some to argue that we are experiencing a prel-
ude to a paradigm change (Anderson 1998; Kuhn 1996).
Since we cannot satisfactorily address the current problems
with the theories at our disposal, management scholars have
long been called to re-conceptualize their basic, paradig-
matic assumptions (Ghoshal 2005; Gladwin etal. 1995;
* Michael Pirson
pirson@fordham.edu
1 Fordham University, 45 Columbus Avenue, NewYork,
NY10023, USA
1 See, for example, http://www.gabriel-zucman.eu/files/SaezZuc-
man2014.pdf.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... network). Bu network çerçevesinde yapılan çalışmaları "yönetim için alternatif bir paradigma denemesi" olarak sunan Pirson (2017), çalışmasının kesin olmadığını ve "alanın hâlâ gelişmekte olduğunu" (s. xv) ifade etmiştir. ...
... Eserde insani yönetimin köşe taşları olarak "onur" ve "esenlik" (well-being) kavramları ele alınmıştır. Pirson (2017) bu eseriyle, amacının iki temel soru etrafında tartışmaların devam etmesi olduğunu söylüyor: "İnsan olarak biz kimiz?" ve "Herkes için işleyen bir dünyayı nasıl organize edebiliriz?" (s. xv). ...
... Son on yıldır insani yönetim, mevcut paradigmaya bir alternatif olarak öne sürülmekte ve konuyla ilgili çeşitli çalışmalar yapılmaktadır (bkz. Amann ve Stachowicz-Stanusch, 2013;Bal, 2017;Pirson, 2017). Pirson (2017) insani yönetimi insan onuru ve esenliği çerçevesinde ele almıştır. ...
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Özet: Sadece kâr odaklı bakış açısıyla yönetilen iş dünyasının çok boyutlu olumsuz sonuçları var. İnsan için var olduğu iddia edilen sistemler, "insan"a hizmet etmemekte hatta tam tersine insanı, kendisine hizmet eden nesnelere dönüştürmektedir. Bu makalenin amacı, insanın özgürlüğünü ve esenliğini merkeze alan bir yönetim yaklaşımı önerisinde bulunmaktır. Yaklaşıma temel teşkil eden ilke ve değerlerin belirlenmesinde kadim bilgelik ve yönetim birikiminden yararlanılmıştır. Çalışmada ilk olarak, insanın kadim bilgelik açısından anlamına, varlık düzenindeki yerine, amacına ve ideallerine yer verilmiştir. İkinci olarak insani yönetimin amacı ele alınmış ve modele esas teşkil eden; insan onuru, insan esenliği, düzen ve karşılıklı bağlılık, adalet ve merhamet, emanet ve ehliyet, süreklilik inancı ve hesap verebilirlik ilkeleri üzerinde durulmuştur. Sonrasında bu ilke ve değerlerin işletme unsurları ile ilişkileri ve unsurları nasıl yönlendirdiği tartışılmıştır. Literatüre dayalı bir kavramsal yaklaşımı esas alan bu çalışmada ben-ötesi misyon sahibi bir girişimcinin, belirlenen ilke ve değerleri işletmede uygulamaya almasının önemli bir yere sahip olduğu sonucuna ulaşılmıştır. Çalışmanın alana katkısı, birbirlerinden farklı alanlar olarak ele alınan unsurları, insanın özgürlük ve esenliği perspektifinden ilişkilendiren bir şema sunmasıdır. Son olarak genel bir değerlendirme yapılmış ve araştırma önerilerine yer verilmiştir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Yönetim, işletme, kadim bilgelik, insan ve özellikleri, insani yönetim. Abstract: The business world manages its operations only through a profit-oriented perspective, causing negative effects in multiple dimensions. The systems that are claimed to exist for human beings do not serve 'humans', on the contrary, they transform humans into objects that serve the systems. The purpose of this article is to propose a management approach centered on human freedom and well-being. In this article we use perennial wisdom and management experience to determine the principles and values that form the basis of the approach. This article primarily includes the meaning of being human, the place of human in the order of existence, and the purpose and ideals of humans from the perspective of perennial wisdom. Secondly, we discuss the purpose of human-centeredmanagement and the concepts that form the foundation of the model, namely, human dignity, human well-being, order and mutual dependence, justice and mercy, trust and worthiness, belief in afterlife and accountability. Afterwards, we address how these principles and values are related to business elements and how they give direction to these elements. In this study with a literature-based conceptual approach, we conclude that an entrepreneur with a transpersonal mission has an important role in applying the determined principles and values in the business. As a contribution to the literature, this paper presents a schema from the perspective of human freedom and well-being, and link the elements which were regarded to be in different areas. Finally, we make a general discussion and recommendations for future research. Keywords: Management, business, perennial wisdom, human and human features, human-centered management.
... While the link between disruptions and identity configuration is clear, the impacts of technological disruptions on identity and the role of identity shifting and transformation within an organizational to response to shake-outs remain unexplored (Utesheva et al., 2016;Waldman et al., 2021). Indeed, in the context of COVID-19, the emotional disruption approach enriches our understanding of how emotions play in organizations' functioning, individuals' actions, and effective work performance (Lawless, 2018) and reinforces an emergent EU humanistic management view that is focused on protecting/promoting human dignity and well-being (Pirson, 2017). Previous literature has highlighted/explored certain emotional responses in an inherent part of teaching and research, such as demonstrations of sympathy-empathy (Lawless, 2018), high feelings of "anxiety" (Berg et al., 2016), dynamic masking (Bain et al., 2017), and importantly the rise in mental health problems within academia (Shaw and Ward, 2014). ...
... Care factors have notably intensified among the EU community to deal with their colleagues, students, and partners outside the university. Especially, based on the COVID-19 emotional and healthy protection orientation (Pirson, 2017), the configuration of an EU's humanistic identity could be characterized by a relational and collectivistic supportiveness culture among the university community, stakeholders, and society (Brickson, 2007). ...
... This study extends the academic literature by providing insights into the EU structural and identity metamorphoses derived from implementing technological/emotional disruptions to respond to shake-out events. Especially by highlighting the critical role of the EU leadership (Stolze and Sailer, 2021) and re-configuration of the EU's identity pro-market (Li and Tang, 2021), pro-social Waldman et al., 2021), and humanistic (Pirson, 2017). Particularly, this study recognize for the first time the critical play of emotions (sympathy-empathy, anxiety, dynamic masking, and mental health issues) within the academic sphere during a "shock" period by extending the debate of previous studies in the organizational management literature (Shaw and Ward, 2014;Bain et al., 2017;Berg et al., 2016;Lawless, 2018). ...
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Entrepreneurial universities (EU) have received much attention over the last few years. Although the well- articulated contributions in the literature, empirical evidence substantiating the EU’s disruptive responses in challenging times is scarce (e.g., crises, natural disasters, pandemics, Belic conflicts, or wars). This study theo- rizes the EU’s metamorphosis due to technological/emotional disruptions to respond to evolving COVID-19 stakeholders’ needs. We design a two-step qualitative methodological design in twenty well-representative EUs across the globe by adopting a mixed theoretical approach. Our findings shed some light on two relevant insights: (a) how the EU disruptively re-oriented the core activities to respond to the stakeholders’ needs during a shake-out event (the COVID-19 pandemic); and (b) how a disruptive shake-out event (the COVID-19 pandemic) re-stimulates an EU structural and identity metamorphosis. A proposed theoretical framework extends previous studies on understanding how the EU’s metamorphosis could occur due to an external shake-out event. A pro- voking discussion and implications for theory, practice, and policymakers emerge from our findings.
... Indeed, many scholars are trying to re-conceptualize management assumptions in different ways (Ghoshal, 2005;Gladwin et al., 1995;Hahn et al., 2010). Some academics have proposed a humanistic management style (Acevedo, 2012;Dierksmeier, 2016;Melé, 2003;Melé and Schlag, 2015;Pirson, 2017;Spitzech, 2011) focused on the promotion of human dignity in management theory. Meanwhile, other scholars have argued that no organization can work exclusively based on contracts and that all organizations need motivation that goes beyond profit and material incentives (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005;Bruni and Smerilli, 2009;Pirson, 2017). ...
... Some academics have proposed a humanistic management style (Acevedo, 2012;Dierksmeier, 2016;Melé, 2003;Melé and Schlag, 2015;Pirson, 2017;Spitzech, 2011) focused on the promotion of human dignity in management theory. Meanwhile, other scholars have argued that no organization can work exclusively based on contracts and that all organizations need motivation that goes beyond profit and material incentives (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005;Bruni and Smerilli, 2009;Pirson, 2017). ...
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... One because this was not the expectation of global experts and two because it made a big difference in saving lives. This latter point is a most laudable humanistic approach because it promotes human wellbeing and dignity (Pirson, 2019) which is the raison d'être of public services to people (Ruffini et al. 2022). The end goal is to reclaim people's humanity (Pirson, 2018) even in perilous times. ...
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... The quality movement led by Edwards Demming that took place largely in Japan, a very different society, was again aimed to give workers more input into their jobs, and to make these jobs more meaningful. For a more complete history of the variety of moves to institute humanistic management see Pirson (2017) and Dierksmeier (2016). ...
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... Recent scholarship has effectively challenged the long-standing notion of management as an intrinsically individualistic practice centred on an atomistic and isolated agent, insofar as such approaches tend to considerably ignore the specific milieu that supports, shapes and drives organizational initiatives. Not unexpectedly, the need for nurturing more humane practices in the direction of humanistic management (Arnaud and Wasieleski 2014;Melé 2012;Pirson 2019;Wagner-Tsukamoto 2018;Zawadzki 2018), as well as the call for a personalist business ethics grounded in a variety of Christian traditions supportive of human dignity (Acevedo 2012;Pless et al. 2017), are endemic in recent scholarship that elevates humanizing business to a core organizational priority (Acevedo 2018;Shapiro 2016;Shapiro and Naughton 2015). In this vein of reasoning, the dynamics of embeddedness, social conditioning and interactive processes aiming at fostering the common good should be attributed equal weight to the business potential to reshape existing structures through individual agency (Arjoon et al. 2018;Aust et al. 2019;Costa and Ramus 2012;Frémeaux and Michelson 2017;Fontrodona 2011, 2012). ...
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It is more important than ever that a business must be both ethical and profitable. In this thoroughly revised and updated second edition, Norman E. Bowie shows that by applying Kant's three formulations of the categorical imperative, and by doing the right thing for the right reason, a business can achieve success in both of these fields. Bowie uses examples such as building trust, transparency through open book management, and respecting employees by providing a living wage and meaningful work. This new edition, for graduates and academic researchers in the field of business ethics, has been heavily revised to include the newest scholarship on Kantian ethics, with a new emphasis on Kant's later moral and political theory, a workable account of Kantian capitalism, and additional accounts on corporate social responsibility, Kantianism and human rights, corporate moral agency, and the Kantian theory of meaningful work. Makes the consistent argument that businesses that act according to Kantian ethics can do well by doing good, making the book realistic and broadening its potential appeal. Incorporates discussion of Kant's important work, The Metaphysics of Morals, which was not included in the first edition. Includes new contemporary business examples.