Organization Studies Special Issue on Family Business

[Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief, Organization Studies]

Organization Studies has just published a Special Issue on Family Business. I invite everyone to download and read this interesting and engaging set of articles about family-controlled firms. Many people don’t know that family firms are the most widespread form of business organization, but it’s true!  In addition, the dynamics between a controlling family and other aspects of the organization reveal many opportunities for interesting research. Articles in this special issue of Organization Studies address the following topics:

  • Cultural reproduction and status maintenance in Japanese family firms,
  • Institutional pressures and corporate philanthropy in China
  • Family firm identity maintenance by non-family members
  • Institutional preservation work at a family business in crisis

The guest editors (Carlo Salvato, Francesco Chirico, Leif Melin and David Seidl) provide an excellent overview and introduction to the Special Issue.  All articles are free to download for a limited period of time. I encourage everyone to check them out.

Below is a list of the fascinating articles in this issue:

Development and Validation of the Workplace Dignity Scale

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Benjamin Thomas of the University of Nebraska Omaha and Kristen Lucas of the University of Louisville. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Development and Validation of the Workplace Dignity Scale” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they recount the story of how this research came about:]

Although our research and the result—a working measure of workplace dignity—merit discussion, Kristen (my coauthor) and I both tell the story of this project by describing how it started: As a graduate student studying employee motivation, I came across and grew fascinated by the concept of workplace dignity, only to find no real scale existed to measure it! On a bit of a whim and a wish, I sent an introductory email to Kristen—she has written pretty extensively on workplace dignity—asking if she would be interested in collaborating on a project to make that scale. After she agreed, we carried out our entire 4-study research project, data collection through manuscript writing and submission, remotely, exchanging insights completely through email and telephone. When we finally met in person at a conference, the paper had already been accepted!

Technology played a big part in how we collected our data too. Because we wanted to make a scale applicable to multiple work settings, we looked to Amazon Mechanical Turk, or MTurk, to gather responses for our scale validation. In each study using MTurk, we collected more than 450 responses in a number of hours, and were able to retain about 89% of responses after cleaning the data. Many times, I remarked how different this research process would look to an organizational scientist from a few decades ago. I think this kind of research study—authors with a strong, shared interest who meet and work remotely and use innovative data collection methods—will become more normal in coming years, and I would certainly encourage new scholars and researchers to explore digital connections and tools in their own research, especially if they connect with someone with a shared passion.
For us, the passion to advance our understanding of workplace dignity really sustained our research. Dignity is such an essential experience for humans, and work remains a major influence in people’s lives. A lot of previous work has looked at ways dignity can suffer as a result of work, because dignity is often only recognized in its absence, but we also know dignity can be enriched or affirmed by work. In developing a valid way to measure dignity, the good and the bad, we wanted to standardize, inform, and expand the conversations researchers are having on dignity, but also to give specific language to employees and leaders on how work impacts their dignity. The scale offers value to research and applied settings, by offering a standard for workplace dignity and a means of quantifying it, which will not only reveal what experiences harm dignity, but how work fosters and builds dignity for workers.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Group and Organization Management and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Business Perceptions of Biodiversity as Social Learning

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Thomas Smith, Dr. George Holmes, and Dr. Jouni Paavola of the University of Leeds. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Social Underpinnings of Ecological Knowledge: Business Perceptions of Biodiversity as Social Learning,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the methods, and contribution of their research:]


Despite mounting concerns regarding the degradation and loss of species, habitats and ecosystems occurring worldwide, biodiversity remains an underexplored issue in corporate sustainability. Increasingly, conservationists, policymakers and organisations such as the WBCSD are focussing on business contributions to tackling biodiversity loss. Yet we know little of how different institutional contexts influence efforts to reduce operational impacts on biodiversity, for instance. It is also unclear how different stakeholders can help – or hinder – reform.

This paper integrates social learning and institutional theory to understand business approaches to controlling impacts on biodiversity. Social learning is often used to examine processes of knowledge transfer and reform in natural resource management, but tends to focus on local communities and public bodies rather than businesses. Combined with institutional theory, social learning demonstrates how social systems shape responses to ecological contexts.

This paper adds to ONE research by demonstrating that to understand business responses to biodiversity, it is vital to focus on interactions between social and ecological systems, rather than each system in isolation. Biodiversity is complex, varying across contexts: successfully conserving it means integrating multiple forms of knowledge and values. Business responses to biodiversity need to be examined across multiple contexts, developed to developing country, tropical to temperate, terrestrial to marine, etc.

Although corporate sustainability scholars must be mindful of social and ecological factors specific to one or another context, this should not prevent us from seeking to identify universal principles underlying best practice. Work on stakeholder engagement and institutional views of the firm applied to other issues in corporate sustainability might be used to inform best practices. There is much left to consider and to research regarding business and biodiversity.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from OAE and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jesse Hoey of the University of Waterloo, Tobias Schröder of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Jonathan Morgan of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Kimberly B. Rogers of Dartmouth College, Deepak Rishi of the University of Waterloo, and Meiyappan Nagappan of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Spotlight on Methods: Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, They discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointTechnological and social innovations are increasingly generated through informal, distributed processes of collaboration, rather than in formal, hierarchical organizations. In this article, we present a novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches to explore the social and psychological mechanisms motivating these modern self-organized collaborations. We focus on the example of open, collaborative software development in online collaborative networks like GitHub ( The synthesized approach is based in affect control theory (ACT), and a recent framing in Artificial Intelligence known as Bayesian affect control theory (BayesACT). The general assumption of ACT is that humans are motivated in their social interactions by affective alignment: They strive for their social experiences to be coherent at a deep, emotional level with their sense of identity and general worldviews as constructed through culturally shared symbols. This alignment is used in BayesACT as a control mechanism to generate artificially intelligent agents that can learn to be functioning members of a social order (see for further information).

We show in this article how such a model solves two basic problems in the social scientific study of groups and teams. First, because empirical research on groups relies on manual coding, it is hard to study groups in large numbers (the scaling problem). Second, conventional statistical methods in behavioral science often fail to capture the nonlinear interaction dynamics occurring in small groups (the dynamics problem). The ACT-based models we present allow for sophisticated machine learning techniques to be combined in a parsimonious way with validated social-psychological models of group behaviour such that both of these problems are solved in a single computational model.

The purpose of the present article is to discuss the promises of this cross-disciplinary, computational approach to the study of small group dynamics. We review computational methods for using large amounts of social media data, and connect these methods to theoretically informed models of human behaviour in groups. To use a metaphor, we are digging into digital group dynamics data with a sophisticated, artificially intelligent shovel, and showing how computational social science can be taken to a new level with this unique and novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches. The work is an international collaboration called THEMIS.COG ( between researchers in Canada (University of Waterloo), the USA (Dartmouth College), and Germany (Potsdam University of Applied Sciences).

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Small Group Research and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

OS Editor Picks: Organizing the Environmental Governance of the Rare-Earth Industry

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

Organizing the Environmental Governance of the Rare-Earth Industry: China’s passive revolutionLe Bo, Steffen Böhm, and Noelia-Sarah Reynolds

Are you interested in business-government-civil society relations, in the context of China’s rare-earth industry, and how it has changed over the past 30 years? How have the severe environmental challenges faced by this industry been addressed? In what way has the central Chinese state retained power and control in the face of manifold top-down challenges and bottom-up pressures?

In their forthcoming article in Organization Studies, authors Le Bo, Steffen Böhm, and Noelia-Sarah Reynolds provide answers to these questions in light of the neo-Gramscian literature, with a focus on the disruption of hegemony in China’s passive revolution. It’s an enlightening article to read!

From the Abstract:OSS

The rare-earth industry is of strategic importance for China and many ‘clean’ technologies worldwide. Yet the processes of mining, smelting and separating rare-earth ores are heavily polluting. Using a neo-Gramscian perspective in the context of organization studies, this article analyses the dynamic interactions between government agencies, business and civil society in the development of the environmental governance of China’s rare-earth industry over the past 30 years, with a particular focus on China’s ‘top-down’ passive revolution. Making use of rarely granted access to China’s biggest rare-earth company, one of the country’s key strategic assets, the analysis makes visible the changes of environmental contestations among five different governance actors over what we identify as three environmental governance eras in China. Besides offering unique empirical insights into the organizational processes that constitute the dynamically evolving hegemony of China’s rare-earth industry, the article makes three theoretical contributions to the field of organization studies. First, we analyse the changing role of state institutions in a non-Western context, which has been de-emphasized by existing organization scholars. Second, we conceptualize the dynamics of environmental governance in China as a form of top-down ‘passive revolution’. Third, we problematize the dual role of Chinese NGOs as both supporting and challenging state power. Overall, we contribute to our understanding of the organization of governance systems in non-Western contexts, which has been neglected in organizational studies.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #OSEditorPicks

You can read Organizing the Environmental Governance of the Rare-Earth Industry: China’s passive revolution by Le Bo, Steffen Böhm, and Noelia-Sarah Reynolds free for the next 30 days. 


Read the September Issue of Administrative Science Quarterly!

asqa_63_3_coverWe are pleased to announce that the September Issue of Administrative Science Quarterly is now available to read for a limited time.

Check out the editorial which discusses the ASQ Scholarly Award for Scholarly Contribution which was awarded to  Adam M. Kleinbaum for his article, “Organizational Misfits and the Origins of Brokerage in Intrafirm Networks.”

In the research article, “The Structural Origins of Unearned Status: How Arbitrary Changes in Categories Affect Status Position and Market Impact,” included in this issue, the relationship among status, actors’ quality, and market outcomes are discussed. You can find the abstract below.

customer-experience-3024488__340.jpgFocusing on the categorical nature of many status orderings, we examine the relationship among status, actors’ quality, and market outcomes. As markets evolve, the number of categories that structure them can increase, creating opportunities for new actors to be bestowed status, or it can decrease, dethroning certain actors from their superior standing. In both cases, gains and losses of status may occur without changes in actors’ quality. Because audiences rely on status signals to infer the value of market actors, these exogenously generated status shifts can translate into changes in how audiences perceive actors, resulting in benefits for unearned status gains and costs for unearned status losses. We find support for our hypotheses in a sample of equity analysts at U.S. brokerage firms. Using data on the coveted Institutional Investor magazine All-Star award, we find that analysts whose status increases because of a category addition see corresponding increases in the stock market’s response to their earnings estimates, while those who lose status see corresponding reductions. Our results suggest that the greater weight accorded to high-status actors may be misguided if that status occurs for structural reasons such as category changes rather than because of an actor’s own quality.

This intriguing study, “Anchored Personalization in Managing Goal Conflict between Professional Groups: The Case of U.S. Army Mental Health Care” delves into conflict between groups that pursue different goals. You can find the abstract below:

Mental-health-2313426_640Organizational life is rife with conflict between groups that pursue different goals, particularly when groups have strong commitments to professional identities developed outside the organization. I use data from a 30-month comparative ethnographic field study of four U.S. Army combat brigades to examine conflict between commanders who had a goal of fielding a mission-ready force and mental health providers who had a goal of providing rehabilitative mental health care to soldiers. All commanders and providers faced goal and identity conflict and had access to similar integrative mechanisms. Yet only those associated with two brigades addressed these conflicts in ways that accomplished the army’s superordinate goal of having both mission-ready and mentally healthy soldiers. Both successful brigades used what I call “anchored personalization” practices, which included developing personalized relations across groups, anchoring members in their home group identity, and co-constructing integrative solutions to conflict. These practices were supported by an organizational structure in which professionals were assigned to work with specific members of the other group, while remaining embedded within their home group. In contrast, an organizational structure promoting only anchoring in one’s home group identity led to failure when each group pursued its own goals at the expense of the other group’s goals. A structure promoting only personalization across groups without anchoring in one’s home group identity led to failure from cooptation by the dominant group. This study contributes to our understanding of how groups with strong professional identities can work together in service of their organization’s superordinate goals when traditional mechanisms fail.

To listen to the latest ASQ podcast click here.

Ranking photo attributed to Free Photos.

Mental Health photo attributed to Free Photos.

The Use of Language and Group Processes


[Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Dr. Aimée A. Kane of Duquesne University recently published an article in Small Group Research, which is entitled “Language and Group Processes: An Integrative, Interdisciplinary Review.” We are pleased to welcome them as contributors and excited to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. Below Dr. Van Swol writes about the inspiration behind the research, as well as additional information not included in the final publication.

10SGR11_Covers.inddThis paper reviews research examining the use of language in small interacting groups and teams. We propose a model of group inputs, like status; processes and emergent states, like cohesion, influence, and innovation; and outputs, like performance and member well-being to help structure our review. We integrate this model with how language is used by groups to both reflect group inputs but also to examine how language interacts with inputs to affect group processes and create emergent states in groups, and then ultimately helps add value to the group with outputs like performance. Using cross-disciplinary research, our review finds that language is integral to how groups coordinate, interrelate, and adapt. For example, language convergence is related to increased group cohesion and group performance. Research on language in groups has been increasing, but the research is often scattered in different disciplines. This review provides theoretical scaffolding to consider language use and attempts to pull together consistent research findings to date.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage

Group Communication Photo attributed to Free-Photos (CC)