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Managing in the Individual-Organizational Context

How can we better understand the relationship between individuals and their organizations?  There are many texts on organizational behaviour that deal with this topic so this chapter does not attempt to repeat what is already well covered.  Instead it focuses on two, related questions:

  • What is the nature of the relationship between individuals and organizations, how has it changed over time and how is it likely to change?
  • Can we identify core leadership styles which are appropriate to managing the relationships between people and their organizations?

To do this, first we use the lens of the pyschological contract, one the the most useful concepts, to help explain issues such as talent management, career development, employee identification and engagement, work-life balance and workaholism.  Second, we examine the popular concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) as a source of leadership capacity for new forms of organizations.  You might want to examine Daniel Goleman's blog, a source of really good information on EQ and his most recent ideas on social intelligence.

Since the consulting industry has also developed the notion of engagement to discuss the links between individuals and organizations, I will also provide some guidance to resources on this, though you might want to read chapter four of a book I wrote with Susan Hetrick in 2006 called, 'Corporate Reputations, Branding and Managing People: A Strategic Approach to HR' , to get some further insights into the problematic nature of the 'engagement industry'.

Listen to Key Issues

What do employees want from their managers?   Listen to a programme that deals with the issue of psychological contracts from the series, 'Nice Work'.  Other programmes in this series are also worth listening to.

Additional Reading

 Two very good books that go into some detail on the issues raised in this chapter are:

Sparrow, P. & Cooper, C. (2003) The employment relationship: Key challenges for HR. Oxford: Butterworth.

Conway, N & Briner, R. (2006) Understanding psychological contracts at work: a critical evaluation of theory and research. Oxford: Oxford Univeresity Press.

Why do employees behave as they do?  This AIM report on causal mapping and  Mapping Workplace Performance helps explain the relationships between drivers of employee performance and outcomes

What shapes careers?  Here's a McKinsey report on the drivers of people's careers, which shows that it is work rather than non-work issues which are most important.

How important is talent management?  Read a revision of McKinsey's earlier thinking in an article on talent management written in 2008.

Ideas on Customising the Material

A good, constantly up-dated site for case studies and a toolkit on engagement in the public sector is from the UK Cabinet Office, called the Drive for Change; Why Engagement Matters.

Also enrol for , which is a comprehensive site on management in the public sector


The CIPD produced a very good factsheet on employee engagement in January, 2007 with access to other reading and sources on engagement.  This link is definitely worth exploring.

Again, the CIPD has been at the forefront of commissioning research into psychological contracts.  It has recently updated its factsheet on psychological contracting , another excellent link to further resources.

One of the best of the many management consulting sites on this topic is Towers Perrin, a specialist HR firm that constantly produces reports and webcasts on engagement, talent management and related issues in different countries. 

Cornell University's Centre for Advanced Human Resource Studies has an excellent set of research papers, many of which deal with issues in this chapter (and others) 

You might also want to look at the excellent Institute of Employment Studies website , which has lots of practitioner-relevant, well-written research and advice on HR and employment issues.

Here are a couple of videos made in 2008 by Barbara Kellerman, Professor of Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, on bad leadership and on followership.  These two ideas are intertwined and she has some interesting insights into them.