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Keith Townsend, Aoife M. McDermott, Kenneth Cafferkey and Tony Dundon

It is perhaps easier to explain what theory is not rather than what it is. Theory is not facts or data. Nor is theory a hypothesis, or a case study. It is not a literature review. A theory is a set of general principles or ideas that are meant to explain how something works, and is independent of what it intends to explain. The purpose of a theory (or set of theories) is to help explain what causes something to occur, or to inform us of the likely consequences of a phenomenon. In so doing, theories can be more or less abstract, and be pitched at different levels - explaining society, processes, relations, behaviour and perceptions. For practitioners, theories can enhance understanding and inform decision-making. For researchers, theories shape the framing of their data, and are often presented as an essential part of any well-designed research project. Reflecting this, Hambrick (2007: 1346) argues that theory is essential for a field to flourish and advance. Indeed, many management journals require scholars to make a ‘theoretical contribution’ to get published, prompting something of an obsession with a theory-driven approach in management-related areas. Thus, while recognizing the value and importance of theory, we offer a cautionary note. Specifically, we suggest that it may be fruitful for a field to support initial consideration of phenomena-driven trends or patterns before becoming fixated on having a theoretical explanation. For example, that smoking can cause harm and ill health in humans does not need a theory to prove its validity (Hambrick, 2007). Reflecting this, in disciplines such as sociology, economics and finance there has been less of an ‘essential need’ to publish with some new theoretical development in mind. Instead, ideas, logics, concepts, premises are given due attention and the notion of exploring data is seen as valid and valuable in deciding if certain issues or phenomena are in themselves evident or emergent. Where this is the case, theory can then help to understand and explain such issues. Theory is therefore a crucial lens on the world, one that provides value in addressing both evident and emergent issues. Notwithstanding that empirics and theory both contribute value and vibrancy to a field, our focus here is on the role of theory, and some of the specific theories used in employment relations (ER) and human resource management (HRM) research.

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Colin C. Williams and Ioana A. Horodnic

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Edited by Jeff Kenner, Izabela Florczak and Marta Otto

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Edited by Jeff Kenner, Izabela Florczak and Marta Otto

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Colin C. Williams and Ioana A. Horodnic

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Elin M. Oftedal and Lene Foss

This chapter discusses how responsible start-ups are met in the health sector. Through following three companies, Voco, Cora and Medicus, we acquire insight into the world of challenges the entrepreneurs have when they introduce their technology/service to the healthcare sector. Using institutional theory, we look at the regulative, normative and cognitive dimension of the institutional framework. We use the term ‘institutional wall’ to denote a dense network of formal laws and regulation, informal norms and knowledge and beliefs that act as barriers for the entrepreneurs to access the market. We find that while there is a positive development in the regulative dimension: both the regulative and the normative dimension are set up to favour larger companies. The founders’ responses to the cognitive dimension indicate a lack of belief in Norwegian technology and thus tough access to finance.

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James K. Beggan

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James K. Beggan

This chapter considers the role of emotions in understanding and preventing sexual harassment. Men tend to regret failing to act on a sexual opportunity more than the regret the transient embarrassment associated with being rejected for acting on what is actually an unwanted approach. Despite their widespread use, existing training programs to prevent sexual harassment are generally not effective. One reason is that they tend to motivate compliance by the fear of lawsuits or termination, which may be ineffective if potential harassers view defiance of the threat as a way to demonstrate courage. Rather than focusing on fear, training methods that focus on shame could be more effective; however, it is important to consider the nature of the induced shame. Social movements such as the #MeToo hashtag might be counterproductive to the degree that their efforts to induce shame lead harassers to withdraw or to attack their attackers.

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Salla Sissonen

As an afterthought to the chapters in the book, this epilogue plays with the idea of looking to the future by briefly examining what is happening at earlier stages of education today. By understanding some of the objectives of the Finnish national core curriculum 2014 and taking a look at the practices at school, we can imagine the optimal skillsets that a now 12-year-old child will have when they enter higher education in a few years’ time. Optimally, we will be faced with a person with a developed understanding of how they learn best, a creative learner and problem-solver with skills in meaningful use of technology. This chapter argues that it does not mean the efficient future learners will not require teaching; on the contrary, we will continue to need competent pedagogical thinkers to guide the students on their individual paths to lifelong-learning.

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Annika Zorn, Jeff Haywood and Jean-Michel Glachant

The introduction discusses how the digital trend that has substantially disrupted other sectors is transforming the higher education sector or even posing a threat to academic institutions’ core business. What could be the rationale for higher education institutions to incorporate a comprehensive digital agenda into their core strategy? Outlining the main developments over the past years in the areas of education, research and knowledge sharing, the authors argue that academic institutions are still far from grasping the full potential of what the digital offers to the academy. Not only does the adoption of online and open practices allow universities to respond to major challenges facing them today, but a digital vision also allows higher education institutions to re-define their role in society. Subsequently, the authors outline how the examples discussed in the book, stemming from a variety of academic contexts, will enrich our understanding of what ‘moving online’ might entail and how to make it work in practice.