These four textbooks present different approaches to the study of organisations and organisational behaviour. All four are in their third or fourth editions, and the experienced authors have tried and tested their varied approaches in the university classroom. It makes for an interesting comparison between such different texts.
Stephen Fineman, David Sims and Yiannis Gabriel very deliberately set out to present the traditional subjects within organisational studies in a very different perspective in Organising and Organisations . The authors, reflecting their students' comments on the structure of the material in traditional texts, reorganise the familiar topics into a new and catchy framework, with chapter titles such as "Sex", "Feelings", "Virtuality" and "Serious jokes". These and other such titles aim to appeal to new students of organisational behaviour and also to demonstrate the relevance of the study of organisations to the real-life experiences of workers.
The authors helpfully provide a chart showing how the traditional material that any such text has to include to provide a comprehensive textbook on organisational studies fits into their new framework. It is enlightening: it shows how the material that would normally have been included in a single chapter is now dispersed throughout several chapters, focusing on different feelings and behaviours. This provides a simple, accessible psychological analysis that is attractive to new students of organisational studies.
The style of this book fits its changed structure: the writing is direct, simple and familiar. The reference style is simplified, with few references, notes or sources included in the text. The text is almost conversational, supported by illustrative stories of incidents or snippets of discussion from real-life work situations. The text concludes with a lengthy "thesaurus" that provides comprehensive explanations of key terms and references to other works. This allows the text to appear direct and conversational, and allows students to refer to the thesaurus at any point in their reading of the chapters.
A text that represents virtually the complete opposite of this approach is the joint product of the School of Management at Ghent University, Organisational Behaviour by Marc Buelens, Herman Van Den Broeck, Karlien Vanderheyden and a number of other authors. Unlike the first text, the dense, small print and the more formal, academic style of writing demands the attention and interest of more advanced and sophisticated students. The 18 chapters are divided into the academic headings of a more traditional approach to the subject of organisational behaviour, such as power, change, group dynamics and communications.
The result is a thorough, closely referenced and comprehensive text. It is richly supported with explanatory charts, tables, research and case studies contained in contrasting boxes. These are very helpful not just in the excellent teaching materials but also to break the small print text and provide welcome graphic aids to learning.
For students and professors of a more traditional bent, this text provides a richness of detail and thoroughness that is immensely impressive and interesting. It is also demanding of its readers; attention, comprehension and commitment to its study are required to get the most out of this book.
The focus is on contemporary European theories and references, and the approach is grounded in sociology. It is up to date, with chapters on issues such as innovation, change and sustainable and ethical organisations. Its academic orientation is shown in its thorough explanation of theories, illustrated with case studies and research.
This textbook offers everything you could need in a general text on organisational theory, and it provides an excellent grounding in the fundamentals of the subject for advanced students.
The last two texts represent something of a hybrid between the above two books.
Principles of Organisational Behaviour by Robin Fincham and Peter Rhodes is a clear, well-structured and comprehensive textbook that combines a psychological and sociological approach to the subject of organisational studies. The textbook has a long history of being a useful and practical teaching tool, and most educators reading through this text would find its structure, comprehensive treatment of relevant topics and style easy to use and appealing to students. The writing is clear and well argued, presenting students with straightforward study material. There are few charts or graphs to illustrate points made in the text, although the authors provide many suggested self-tests or focus points to encourage independent thought and reflection on the material. Each chapter is supported by a glossary and further learning tools (web and self-test questions), which are very useful teaching tools.
Likewise, John Martin's Organisational Behaviour and Management is an appealing book for educators in the field of organisational studies. More to the point, it has a very explicit and attractive focus on management that underlines its relevance to business students who might be sceptical of the need to study the way organisations work to be good business managers. Many sections literally contain the word "managing", which reinforces the focus on management and business.
This is a thorough, beautifully organised, clearly written and attractive textbook that would balance challenging in-depth material with clear synopses of basic explanation (often easily depicted in supporting boxes)
and moments of levity in the form of cartoons. Many educators would find the supporting boxes and indeed the cartoons useful in the classroom as a means of underlining and illustrating the key points.
The book opens with a "guided tour" that gives an overview of the structure and content. The ease of use is aided with colour-coded supplementary boxes, such as key terms, employee perspective (balancing the employer's view), "management in action" examples, discussion questions, case studies and further readings and websites.
For students and educators alike, this text is ideal. It represents an academic yet practical sociological approach that will appeal to the advanced student in business programmes as well as to the imaginative and thorough university educator.
Christopher Stoney is associate professor of public policy and administration, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Organising and Organisations
Author - Stephen Fineman, David Sims and Yiannis Gabriel
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 458
Price - £75.00 and £24.99
ISBN - 1 4129 0129 4 and 0130 8