Jeffrey Pfeffer in the Lion’s Den
| Nicolai Foss |
Management theory heavy-weight and über-econ-basher Jeffrey Pfeffer (cf. these posts) makes an appeareance in the Fall 2007 issue of . . . the Journal of Economic Perspectives — admittedly a rather “open” journal, but still one of the house journals of the American Economic Association.
Pfeffer’s paper, “Human Resources From an Organizational Behavior Perspective: Some Paradoxes Explained,” appears in the context of a symposium on human resource management. Pfeffer provocatively (surprise!!) argues that 1) workplaces in the US are roughly speaking terrible, 2) they are becoming increasingly terrible, 3) bad human resource management in US firms significantly harm firm-level performance, and 4) “in spite of the fact that much of what is required to build engaged and successful organizations is at once well known and not always costly to implement, many, maybe most, organizations have failed to take appropriate actions, thereby, in some sense, ‘leaving money on the table'” (p. 115).
Persistent irrationality in the form of failing to implement the HRM policies favored by Pfeffer is explained by “the fundamental insights that both employees and organizations are embedded in a social context that provides taken-for-granted ways of thinking and doing things; social influence matters so that companies imitate others even if such imitation is maladaptive” (pp. 115-16). In other words, classical hardcore sociology meets econ. May be great as an exam question or essay assignment.
Here is the abstract:
Workplaces in America and elsewhere show pervasive job dissatisfaction, distrust, and disengagement, with the evidence suggesting that these problems are getting worse and have a number of negative consequences for employers as well as employees. What follows is a necessarily selective exploration of human resource management in organizations, covering why it is often done so badly, what theory suggests about how to do it better, and why so little of what is known is actually implemented.