Organizational humanness : uncovering humanness in sites of organizing

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, lecture hall LO124

Topic of the dissertation

Organizational humanness : uncovering humanness in sites of organizing

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration) Tuure Haarjärvi

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Management and International Business

Subject of study

Business Economics


Professor Matthijs Bal, Lincoln International Business School, University of Lincoln


Professor Juha Tuunainen, Oulu Business School, University of Oulu

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Organizational humanness

The dissertation explores humanness in organizations. According to the research, organizational humanness manifests in everyday practices and gains its meaning from the tensions between organizational goals and the varying interpretations of humanness held by employees. The research encourages organizations to utilize these tensions for open discussion and to improve shared understanding about humanness, ultimately promoting more humanistic management.

The study adopts a qualitative research methodology and a practice-based approach, using dignity and dehumanization concepts to examine how employees perceive and enact humanness at work. The results emphasize that humanness is not solely an individual characteristic but emerges from the practices and activities within an organization, with the social context playing a crucial role in shaping understanding. This view challenges the traditional management-focused approach, which relies on value statements and codes of conduct handed down to employees from above. Simultaneously, the research highlights that employee humanness is not solely determined by large-scale forces; rather, organizations and their employees can make choices that influence how humanness is perceived within the organization. A humane workplace requires activity from both managers and employees alike. It means participating in activities that support a positive working environment and taking responsibility for one's own actions.

The dissertation identifies four key aspects of organizational humanness: hierarchy, boundary, lifeworld, and individuality. The hierarchy represents the vertical relationships among employees and can give rise to unequal treatment or misuse of authority, but also has positive aspects like clear decision-making processes. Boundary refers to the division of people into horizontal groups, which may lead to favoritism but can also help build a sense of community within the group. The lifeworld reflects the extent of overlap and interaction between employees' personal and work lives, with individual preferences for blurring or separating these realms. Individuality pertains to the recognition of employee individuality within the work environment, where employees desire to be part of a community working toward shared goals, but not solely defined by their organizational position.

Focusing on these aspects helps organizational members understand and resolve tensions arising from various activities, ultimately improving the workplace for everyone. In situations where employees have conflicting perceptions of organizational humanness, these differences should not be avoided but instead seen as opportunities to gain a better understanding and to reconcile tensions in a constructive manner.
Last updated: 23.1.2024