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Research in Organisation, Work and Technology

Leading the debate in the field of organisation studies.

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Our Research

Our research sets the agenda in debates about human resource management and employment relations; ethics, sustainability and management; and information, technology and society. This is all part of a wider programme to advance studies of the role and effects of management and organisations in contemporary society.

We strive to bring humanities and wider social science perspectives into management research, which is being widely acknowledged as a crucial part of reshaping management research and education in the twenty-first century.

Research Areas

Research by our faculty members covers a variety of topics in Organisation, Work and Technology organised into four main areas along with our research in the Centre for Technological Futures.

Human Resource Management & Employment Relations

The implications for managers and employees of ‘new’ workplace initiatives such as flexible working, team working, well-being, quality and knowledge management are pressing contemporary concerns. Similarly, the ways in which employees are managed, and the way this has differential impacts according to the age, gender and professional status of an individual are equally significant. The Department makes substantial contributions to the critical exploration of such developments in both the public (e.g National Health Service) and private sectors (e.g. financial and professional service firms) as part of an analysis of the changing world of work and employment.

Our research focuses on:

  • Changing forms of workplace autonomy versus intensified control. Such issues have been theorised by Bogdan Costea, Norman Crump and Kostas Amiridis, and studied empirically in UK financial services (David Knights, Darren McCabe), global professional service firms (James Faulconbridge), the education sector and veterinary surgery (David Knights), the National Health Service (Pete Thomas), the care sector (Bev Evans, Norman Crump) and internationally in the Austrian public sector(Bernadette Loacker).
  • Inequalities in the Employment Relationship. Work in this area includes empirical and theoretical analysis of age and retirement (Pete Thomas), age and gender in the professions and empirical research on academics and vets (David Knights), and empirical work on the employment relationship in the gym and fitness industry (Kay Greasley and Pete Thomas). Lara Pecis has investigated the marginalising effects of gender dynamics on innovation processes within knowledge-intensive organisations.
  • The creation of new images of the ideal employee: the enterprise or entrepreneurial self. This topic has been explored in relation to UK Banking (Darren McCabe), Austrian management graduates (Bernadette Loacker), the ‘enterprise’ economy in Poland (Pete Thomas), the impacts of executive search firms on labour markets (James Faulconbridge) and in the Passive Fire Protection Industry (Darren McCabe).
  • How ‘space’ is being reconfigured in the contemporary workplace. This is explored by Karen Dale in her book ‘The Spaces of Organization and the Organization of Space’ (with Gibson Burrell), and in research examining the practices of those designing commercial offices completed by James Faulconbridge as part of the Lancaster based DEMAND Centre.
  • National cultural factors in employment – The transfer of HR policies and practices within multinational corporations, particularly the impact of Chinese cultural values on the HR policies and practices from the Western multinational companies to their subsidiaries in China (Yu Fu). 

Members of the Department also play a central role in the Lancaster University Centre for Mobilities Research, examining forms of mobile work, its management and effects on workers and society.

Human Resources

Ethics, Sustainability & Management

News of serious moral transgressions in the world of business and management, which have far-reaching economic, social and political repercussions, appears in the media with alarming regularity.  The same intensity and urgency is also reflected in questions about the relationship between business, management and the natural environment. Environmental sustainability poses one of the most significant challenges in current attempts to rethink and re-imagine the role and practice of management. 

The Department has a vibrant research environment and internationally recognised research portfolio focussed on ethics and sustainability. Examples of current areas of interest include:

  • How people in organisations experience and make sense of ethical dilemmas. Sarah Gregory has conducted research into the ethical dilemmas that middle managers face in their everyday working lives in the public and private sectors and in Small and Medium sized Enterprises and James Faulconbridge has examined the antecedents of wrongdoing in professional service firms.
  • How ethics permeate situated organisational practices. Lucas Introna has explored how ethical subjectivity becomes enacted to render possible (or not) ethically informed organisational practices. Bernadette Loacker has explored how individuals in the ‘creative industries’ critically reflect upon and respond to the moral codes and demands in this employment field. David Knights has critically examined questions of ethical leadership.
  • How technologically mediated organisational practices raises questions of ethics. Niall Hayes and Lucas Introna have examined issues of privacy, surveillance, and the ethical implications of the use of algorithmic technologies such as plagiarism detection systems, facial recognition systems, and search engines.  
  • The role of Waste in the circular economy. Issues such as organisation and managerial responses, the negotiations surrounding values attributed to waste (Alison Stowell), and e-Waste (discarded information and communication technologies) as a particular type of work have been explored empirically in the UK (Alison Stowell and Martin Brigham) and through comparisons with Japan (Alison Stowell).
  • How companies, civil society, and local communities make sense of ecological change. The work of Gail Whiteman examines how resilience is built across scales by such actors given environmental pressures and social inequities.

Members of the department play an active role in the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business which brings our research into dialogue with sustainability scholarship in Lancaster’s other faculties and departments. The Centre’s mission is that of connecting the best minds in science with the best brains in business to co-design research for a more sustainable world. 

Environment

Information, Technology & Society

A broad range of factors influence the development and uptake of technological innovations and how these shape organisational processes and social practices. Researchers in the Department aim to develop new accounts of these factors, while attending to the effects of technologies in a diverse (from airports to consumer credit to universities) and global (including Africa, Europe, and Australasia) set of contexts. Several foci cut across research in this area including:

  • The relationship between new technology and organisational practices. For example Brian Bloomfield and Theo Vurdubakis have analysed the potential consequences of the use of artificial intelligence and robotics in work and warfare. Lara Pecis has looked at the role of mobile devices in relation to work-life balance and employees’ emotions.

  • The social effects of increasingly mobile data and digital information. Research by Joe Deville considers the consequences of lenders’ increasing use of ‘big data’ analytical methods to assess borrowers’ creditworthiness. Researchers have also looked at the role of information and satellite technologies in controlling tropical deforestation (Niall Hayes and Theo Vurdubakis) as well as the disposal of both nuclear waste (Brian Bloomfield and Theo Vurdubakis) and electronic waste (Martin Brigham and Alison Stowell). 
  • How technology is variously shaping bodies and environments, and the ethical questions that arise with technological change. For example, research by Brian Bloomfield and Karen Dale looks at how the adoption of ‘smart drugs’ in working environments changes our understandings of ‘normal’ and ‘extreme’ types of work. Research by Yvonne Latham looks at the ethical questions which arise when computing technologies are used to improve the ‘social inclusion’ of disabled people. 

The Department hosts the Centre for Technological Futures which brings together researchers from across Lancaster University interested in questions about information technology and society.

Technology

Management, Organisation and Society

All kinds of organisations and their management ideas, values, structures, and practices influence our contemporary lives. Cutting across all of the Department’s research is, therefore, a concern with the origins of contemporary forms of management and organising, their impacts on society, and the way various functional areas of management acquire their legitimacy. Questions about the role of management education in a world which is profoundly global and interdependent are also of concern.

Research considers in particular:

  • How we come to rely on certain conceptions of what ‘good management’ is and what a ‘good organisation’ looks and acts like? Pete Thomas has explored the discursive construction of the idea of strategic management, and Bev Evans has examined how new management policy is implemented in secondary education and with Norman Crump also in health sector organisations. Bernadette Loacker has explored what is constituted as ‘good (self)management’ in both the traditional career discourse and the more recent enterprise discourse.
  • How might ideas from the humanities and social sciences inform theorising of contemporary management?  For example, the link between management thinking and its relation to question of finitude in contemporary culture have been explored by Bogdan Costea, Kostas Amiridis and Norman Crump. Bogdan Costea and Laurence Hemming have translated the work of Ernst Jünger on European thinking about work, management and society throughout the 20th Century, and drawn on the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger to examine questions about values in the modern society.
  • Relatedly, what might management education informed by the humanities and social sciences look like? For example, Bogdan Costea, Kostas Amiridis and Norman Crump have examined the dominant paradigm in undergraduate management education and its critique.

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