Humanistic Management –SucksLessandBetter
for your Health
#Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
How are you doing?
How well did you sleep last night?
Asking about your well-being and the quality of your sleep may reveal important
insights for good organizing practices. If these questions are asked with authentic
curiosity the resulting insights could transform businesses. That is at least what more
and more CEOs are finding out.
Not so long ago, Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in Chief of the Huffington
Post, had a breakdown caused by sleep deprivation. Since then she has become an advocate of
the importance of sleep. She argues that Bwe are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, with
profound consequences to our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happi-
ness. What we need is nothing short of a sleep revolution: only by renewing our relationship
with sleep can we take back control of our lives.^
There is no lack of good sleep advice, still business culture seems to celebrate those that can
operate tirelessly on four hours of sleep (and apparently such people exist).
Investors Causing Restless Nights
Enter Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, one of the world’s largest asset management companies.
Fink commands close to $7 TRILLION USD under management. His company owns 3–7% of
assets of most, if not every, publicly listed company in the United States. Fink’s recent letter to
CEOs reportedly caused sleepless nights. At the World Economic Forum in Davos and
beyond, Fink’s letter became the conversation item; a signal that it jolted business leadership
awake. (Check out the letter here: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-
Humanist Manag J
International Humanistic Management Association, Fordham University, Bronx, NY, USA
If you read the letter it is surprising that it would cause much fuss at all. Fink is asking
CEOs to articulate more clearly what their social purpose is and adapt their corporate
governance systems to ensure long-term value creation. Why should this be a problem?
I have talked a lot with my students and executives about the letter. They generally
conclude that both social legitimacy and long-term oriented corporate governance are at odds
with current business culture. Business culture and business practice are widely thought of
only in terms of short-term oriented profit maximization. People hate business because it
neglects concerns for human dignity and well-being. R. Edward Freeman (in this issue) calls
this the Bbusiness sucks^narrative.
In his essay, Freeman (2018) suggests that the Bbusiness sucks^story is one of the dominant
modes of thought in our society. It is indicative of a profound mistrust and misunderstanding of
the role of business. Freeman suggests that there reigns a dominant myth in society that
business occupies the moral low ground, separate from ethics or a humanistic concern. How
could one ever envision business having a social purpose in that case? Freeman’s essay shows
how the enactment of this story underlies business thinking among many managers and
business theorists (including those who have trouble with Fink’s letter). The essay concludes
with a suggestion to rethink and reinvent this story along more realistic and more empowering
lines. Freeman suggests that a humanistic, values-based form of capitalism, or stakeholder
capitalism, offers a better way to understand the complex role that business does and should
play in modern society.
In the light of this essay, one could interpret Fink’s letter as a fundamental challenge to
corporate executives to ditch the Bbusiness sucks^narrative. This is indeed a monumental task
which can keep you up at night. To highlight how widespread and deeply rooted this story is,
let’s consider the case of Kevin O′Marah, a business insider and columnist at Forbes,the
business magazine. He writes: BI hate business but I love Larry Fink:^
BBusiness, Especially In Big, Public Companies Is All About Money. Executives Have
Only One Real Duty: To Maximize Shareholder Value. Lip Service About Other
Accountabilities Notwithstanding, The Fact Is That C-Level Executives’Responsibility
Forces Them To Choose The Path Of Highest Risk-Adjusted Net Present Value.
This drives all kinds of objectionable behavior from exploitative labor practices and
pollution to tax evasion. Individual executives may hate it as a matter of conscience, but
they are expected to suck it up and, if necessary, do the dirty work.
Equity markets are soulless by design, with a harsh binary logic that recognizes only two
signals: buy or sell. Harnessed, as it is now, to the frenetic news cycle of our digital age
this engine has become increasingly ill-suited to long-term thinking. At the limit we are
tempting revolution by maniacally chasing profit at all cost. Politics reflects this
dissatisfaction and is issuing a warning we’dbewisetoheed.
It makes me fear for the future.^
O’Marah has high hopes for Larry Fink because he is asking business to suck less. And that
may scare CEOs who have spent their lifetime defending current practices. For many other
people including social activists, Larry Fink’s letter is a trivial statement, which only matters
Humanist Manag J
because of who is saying it. Much like O′Marah they hope that Fink’exhortation can lead to a
better system that increases the well-being of all.
Purpose, Sleep and Well-Being
To many enlightened business leaders, social purpose is seen as giving clarity and reducing
complexity. It helps management run a business better because the social purpose can guide
decision making at many levels. Having a clear social purpose allows one to engage important
stakeholders and creates a collaborative advantage. For the CEO, social purpose helps decrease
cognitive overload in the brain and therefore improves sleep.
That insight we label humanistic management. It roughly states that ethics and purpose can be
much better strategy and is ultimately better for everyone’s well-being (Dierksmeier 2016;
Dierksmeier et al. 2011;Mele2003,2009;Pirson2017b). Empirical evidence highlights that
people who sleep better are also making better decisions and are therefore better managers. In
turn, increasing evidence shows that sleep quality is affected by how much people feel their life is
meaningful and has purpose. A recent study raises the possibility that sleep could be affected by
the degree to which someone feels like his or her life is purposeful or meaningful. Arlener Turner,
Christine Smith and Jason Ong of the Northwestern University School of Medicine found that
people who reported having a greater sense of purpose in life also reported getting better sleep—
even when taking into consideration age, gender, race and level of education.
Humanistic management is the label we use to describe organizing practices that allow
people to envision a world where business sucks less and managers can sleep better (and for
that matter everyone around them sleeps better too). Humanistic management positions
organizational activity around the protection of dignity and the promotion of well-being
(Pirson 2017b,c). We have long argued this is better business. It is also very much in line
with what Blackrock describes as its guiding principles:
BWe believe that companies with sound corporate governance practices, including how
they manage the environmental and social aspects of their operations, offer better risk-
adjusted returns over time.^
This thinking is indeed a big challenge for traditional management and is easily dismissed
as socialist, interventionist, Marxist etc. We think humanistic management thinking can
provide a basis for those managers that sleep fitfully in response to Larry Fink’sletter.We
further argue that it can provide the foundation of a bolder, more empowering narrative for
business and organizing in general, much like Ed Freeman suggests.
The journal has published several pieces that relate to a better narrative (Dion 2017;
Lawrence and Pirson 2015;Lovins2016;Pirson2016,2017a,b,c,2018;Waddock
2016). In a second contribution in this issue, Sandra Waddock (2018) is exploring the
possibility of building such a narrative. She is exploring core memes and metrics which
she argues need to shift to support a more empowering humanistic narrative for business
and beyond. Her conclusions are sobering, however, as the current status of the
Humanist Manag J
conversation is very much based on staid memes and outdated categories that are holding
people in an intellectual cage. There seems to be a lack of coherent memes used by those
entities that address many of the concerns related to dignity violations and well-being
promotion. Waddock is concluding her paper suggesting there is much opportunity to seed
new memes and metrics and do so in a concerted manner.
The editorial team of the Humanistic Management Journal consider dignity and well-
being central memes of a more life-conducive economic system (Mele 2003,2009;
Pirson 2016;Pirsonetal.2016). We encourage everyone else so inclined to promote
this movement toward more humanistic management practices to enhance human
flourishing. Wouldn’t you rather dream of business acting in this manner than endure
the nightmare of the business sucks narrative?
Further Memes: Mindfulness, Resilience, and Global Health
Some other memes that are catching on relate to mindfulness and compassion. In fact,
one CEO in the fashion industry pointed to the need for more mindfulness dealing with
Larry Fink’s letter; a practice she had adopted long ago to help her sleep better. In a third
contribution, Kevin Jackson (2018) is exploring these increasingly popular memes and
their potential contribution to better ethical business practice.
Jackson’s article aims to provide a standpoint from which to critically address two
broad concerns. The first concern surrounds a naïve view of mindfulness, which takes it
as a given that it is a good thing to cultivate mindfulness and attendant qualities like
compassion because these virtues are key to improving the quality of life and bettering
effective decision-making within business. The second concern is that Western virtue-
based business ethics is largely confined to academic philosophical theories. As such,
virtue-driven business ethics is often more centered around developing theoretical
wisdom than developing Bhard core^practical wisdom earned through yoga asanas,
meditation, chanting, and breathing, whereas for contemplative practices the reverse is
the case, with practical wisdom (Bknowing how-to^) emphasized over theoretical wisdom
Jackson’s article examines prospects for cross-fertilization between, on the one
hand, mindfulness and compassion interpreted as virtues in Eastern contemplative
practices, and on the other hand, mindfulness and compassion as interpreted within
Western virtue-oriented business ethics. The first theme is that mindfulness and
compassion represent key virtues within contemplative practices. This indicates a
promising touchpoint between Eastern and Western traditions: their respective focus
upon character, inner states, intrinsic motivation, and self-improvement toward ethi-
cality in the world. The second theme is that such virtues in Eastern contemplative
practices, as well as character traits integral to Western virtue-oriented approaches,
denote contested Bnormative-interpretive^concepts that engage philosophical debate
rather than indisputable empirical-criterial concepts that can be taken at face-value.
The third theme advocates moving beyond behaviorist and neuropsychological ac-
counts of virtue, approaching character traits of Eastern contemplative practice and
Western virtue ethics through nonscientific inquiry into normative interpretive ques-
tions concerning such virtues (questions about meaning, responsibility, the nature of
the self, reasons for acting).
Humanist Manag J
If mindfulness and compassion are critically relevant to better/more ethical business
practice, then the questions are 1) how can we teach mindfulness and 2) how can we teach
management more mindfully. In the fourth contribution, Benito Teehankee is answering
the latter question. In his article on humanistic management pedagogy, Teehankee (2018)
is proposing Critical Realist Action research as a form of mindful management education.
He reports on teaching experiences accumulated over the past 6 years at a leading business
school in the Philippines. The introduction of action research, which is based on critical
realist philosophy of science, was intended to enable the university’sMBAgraduatesto
become reflexive and humanistic agents of change in their work contexts through the
application of observation, critical reflection, collaborative analysis and action and schol-
arly skills. He reports that the implementation of the action research requirement is
beginning to yield positive results based on the types of projects implemented by the
students and their resulting sense of efficacy in the workplace. Challenges in implemen-
tation include the need to further hone student skills in pursuing more emancipatory
projects and the need to further orient faculty in the critical realist philosophy underlying
action research, as distinct from traditional positivism.
Connecting the role of mindfulness with organizational health, Shana Hormann (2018)
is exploring resilience as a basis for organizational success. Addressing Larry Fink’s
challenge that CEO’s manage risk better, resilience can be key to handle these future
challenges. In a fifth contribution aimed at practitioner audiences, she explores the
question of what carries people, organizations, and communities through traumatic
times? She argues that as a construct, resilience is built on the underlying assumption
that an individual or organization has undergone a situation of ‘significant adversity’and
has adapted positively, returning to or increasing in performance and psychological well-
being. Resilience is an important quality for leaders who are committed to the sustained
health of organizations. Since current and future changes to organizations may be drastic
and potentially traumatic, this paper offers recommendations for addressing organiza-
tional trauma as well as strengthening resilience, individually and collectively. Hormann
shares stories from several organizations, demonstrating the importance of leadership and
resilience in the face of trauma.
In a sixth contribution aimed at policy makers, Frederik Ahen is suggesting to connect
public policy discourses on ecological governance with those on global health. Ahen
(2018) argues that global health and environmental wellbeing are mutually reinforcing
and interdependent. This mutuality invokes two major analytical orientations: it empha-
sizes a direct nexus between ecological strategies and global health outcomes. These in
turn revitalize the essential quest for comprehensive policies and responsible strategies
for enhancing both ecology and health within the discourse of sustainability. Ahen
addresses the question: Why and how might ecological strategies be embedded in
corporate day-to-day actions to produce optimal outcomes that have positive effects on
global health and human dignity?
Despite the various major impediments, he suggests that there are several grounds for
optimism with a move to humanistic eco-centrism via deliberative democratic proce-
dures. His paper provides an interdisciplinary theoretical model that seeks to reorient
strategies towards restoration, protection, mitigation, adaptation, harm avoidance and
innovative sustainability of the whole economic gamut and biodiversity that supports
global health. Thus, Ahen rearticulates ecological sustainability in terms of its most
fundamental means and end: sustainable global health and the tutelage of human dignity.
Humanist Manag J
Introducing a New Section: Future Challenges
As we have argued before organizational practices will be seen as effective when they are future
proof. The ultimate success of the humanistic conception of business and the economy lies not in
the past, but in how we position ourselves in the present to meet the needs of the future. As with
any management model, the principles behind humanistic management theories have to pass the
test of time and must be interpreted continuously in light of new developments.
At present, humanity faces various serious challenges in the natural, social, and digital
realm. Problems of sustainability, concerns of inequality, questions of global governance, and
the wide field opened up by digitization (blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, internet of
things, artificial intelligence, etc.) must be addressed in order to clarify how the foundational
principles of humanistic management can also hold true under the altered circumstances that
await us. Consequently, we –the editors –wish to dedicate a new section of the Humanistic
Management journal to these novel challenges.
Exploring, however, is different from surveying. Whereas settled affairs lend them-
selves to comprehensive analysis and roundabout perspectives where, ideally, we find
‘all things considered,’the chartering of new territories will of necessity be less certain
and complete. For the investigation of the future challenges of humanistic management
we consequently decided also for a different format amenable to such investigative
Instead of requiring the traditional length and the conventional features of journal
articles (extensive literature review, theory gap definition, clarification of theoretical
contribution, etc.), in this section we encourage authors to give us their unfinished (albeit
not unpolished) thoughts, to afford us glimpses into ‘works in progress’or onto emergent
phenomena, to provide us with fresh angles and untested viewpoints. The contributions
need not be the final word on the topic at issue but should rather open up new
perspectives and stimulate further discussions. In short, the form of the articles submitted
for this section can be as exploratory as their content in that, apart from conventionally
crafted texts, we also welcome and support ‘pro & con’debates, ‘question & answer’
formats as well as narrative and opinion-based pieces.
Starting with this issue we will include several such ‘Future Challenge’pieces. One of the
most discussed future challenges is that of technology and money. Blockchain technology has
an apparent multitude of applications. Bitcoin and other forms of digital currency have
occupied the popular press for some time now. It is therefore relevant to sketch out the moral
claims for and against the usage of such technology.
Claus Dierksmeier (2018) outlines the normative claims of two different digital money
communities: Bitcoin and RIPPLE. He argues that the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ripple
stand for two different approaches to the question as to which impact money ought to have in
people’s lives, and as to how individuals in turn can influence the nature and future of money.
In a response, Peter Seele (2018) is exploring the downsides and moral hazards of such
technology. Among the most critical issues are black market transactions of weapons used in
terrorist attacks, drugs, or child pornography. Additionally, cryptocurrencies are more and more
found in blackmailing people and as payment for ransom-ware and other computer viruses
(Wannacry was a remarkable example). Money laundering also is on the rise via
cryptocurrencies. Seele argues that the nefarious use of cryptocurrencies threatens the prosocial
potential of cryptocurrencies and in general makes criminal activity easier and less likely to track
down by legal authorities. He closes by discussing current debates about emerging regulation.
Humanist Manag J
The Editorial team of the Humanistic Management Journal hopes that you find the current
contributions interesting, enlightening and above all not sleep inducing. We also hope that they
can contribute to a better night of sleep and increase your well-being.
Ahen, F. 2018. Dystopic prospects of global health and ecological governance: Whither the eco-centric-
humanistic CSR of firms? Humanistic Management Journal 3 (1): 105-126.
Dierksmeier, C. 2016. Reframing economic ethics: The philosophical foundations of humanistic management.
Heidelberg/New York: Springer.
Dierksmeier, C. 2018. Just HODL? On the moral claims of bitcoin and Ripple users. Humanistic Management
Dierksmeier, C., W. Amann, E. Kimakowitz, H. Spitzeck, and M. Pirson, eds. 2011. Humanistic ethics in the age
of Globality. London/New York: Palgrave.
Dion, M. 2017. Corporate citizenship, social responsibility, and sustainability reports as Bwould-be^narratives.
Humanistic Management Journal 2(1).https://doi.org/10.1007/s41463-41017-40022-x.
Freeman, E. 2018. The Bbusiness sucks^story. Humanistic Management Journal 3(1):9–16.
Hormann, S. 2018. Exploring resilience: In the face of trauma. Humanistic Management Journal 3(1):91–104.
Jackson, K. 2018. Interpreting the virtues of mindfulness and compassion: Contemplative practices and virtue-
oriented business ethics. Humanistic Management Journal 3(1):47–69.
Lawrence, P.R., and M. Pirson. 2015. Economistic and humanistic narratives of leadership in the age of globality:
Toward a renewed Darwinian theory of leadership. Journal of Business Ethics 128 (2): 383–394.
Lovins, H. 2016. Needed: A better story. Humanistic Management Journal 1(1):75–90.
Mele, D. 2003. The challenge of humanistic management. Journal of Business Ethics 44 (1): 77–88.
Mele, D. 2009. Current trends of humanism in business. In Humanism in business: Perspectives on the
development of a responsible business society, ed. H. Spitzeck, M. Pirson, W. Amann, S. Khan, and E.
von Kimakowitz, 170–184. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Pirson, M. 2016. Editorial: Welcome to the humanistic management journal. Humanistic Management
Pirson, M. 2017a. Better stories needed: How meaningful narratives can transform the world. Humanistic
Management Journal 2(1):1–6.
Pirson, M. 2017b. Humanistic management-protecting dignity and promoting well being. Cambridge: Cambridge
Pirson, M. 2017c. In a time of global upheaval-humanistic management thinking needed more than ever.
Humanistic Management Journal 1(2):1–3.
Pirson, M. 2018. Reclaiming our humanity-a cornerstone for better management. Humanistic Management
Pirson, M., K. Goodpaster, and C. Dierksmeier. 2016. Guest editors’introduction: Human dignity and business.
Business Ethics Quarterly 26 (4).
Seele, P. 2018. Let us not forget: Crypto means secret. Cryptocurrencies as enabler of unethical and illegal
business and the question of regulation. Humanistic Management Journal 3 (1): 133–139.
Teehankee, B. 2018. Critical realist action research and humanistic management education. Humanistic
Management Journal 3 (1): 71–90.
Waddock, S. 2016. Foundational memes for a new narrative about the role of business in society. Humanistic
Management Journal 1 (1): 91–105.
Waddock, S. 2018. Narrative, memes, and the prospect of large systems change. Humanistic Management
Humanist Manag J