High Performance Classrooms for Women? Applying a Relational Frame to Management/OB Courses

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Eleanor "Holly" Buttner, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: With the increasingly diverse U.S. workforce, accelerating rate of change, and growing reliance on work teams to address increasingly complex business issues, the traditional command and control management style is no longer effective in many organizational settings (Drucker, 1992, 1997; Mohr- man, Cohen, & Mohrman, 1995; Rosener, 1995). Evolving high-performance work practices include self-managed work teams, decentralization, reduction of status differences, and information sharing (Dessler, 1999). In recent research, relational skills, including empathy, authenticity, empowering others, and facilitating teamwork, heretofore utilized predominantly in the private domain (and used primarily by women) have been shown to be effective in the workplace (Fletcher, 1998; Weisinger, 1998). Many of these concepts and practices are captured in a theory called relational psychology, a theory developed based on the experiences of women (Miller, 1987, 1991; Miller & Stiver, 1997). By the year 2008, women are projected to constitute 47.5% of the U.S. workforce (Fullerton, 1999). Women are increasingly moving into mid- and upper levels of management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Wootton, 1997), women held 43% of managerial positions in 1995. Therefore, providing a climate in business schools that fosters the development of women as well as men is critical. However, Bilimoria (1999) points out that management education fails to meet the needs of many women. She states, “management education is itself mired in the same gendered constructions prevalent in the larger corporate/business environment. In this sense, the institutional and pedagogical structures and practices of management education mirror the prevailing gender biases of our larger society” (1999, p. 120). MacLellan and Dobson (1997) conclude that behavioral assumptions that underlie business education have a male moral bias, which may create a chilling environment for female students. A recent Catalyst (2000) survey of MBA graduates of prestigious U.S. business schools provided empirical support. The Catalyst study reported that almost one third of female respondents found the business school culture to be overly aggressive and competitive. More than half of the women surveyed reported that they could not relate to protagonists in case studies and nearly 40% said they did not have adequate opportunities to work with female professors. Research indicates that men and women have different needs and concerns in learning environments. For women, learning tends to be highly personal (Gallos, 1993). Women learn by integrating different perspectives. In the learning process, women relate theory to their own and other’s experiences, rather than thinking primarily in the abstract as men often do. Women more regularly think contextually and holistically than do men (Fisher, 1999). As women learn, they integrate, generalize, and synthesize (Helgesen, 1990; Rosener,1995). Women’s learning also involves connecting affectively as well as cognitively with the subject matter (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986). They tend to define learning and self-development as their ability to develop and express their own “voice” (Belenky, 1986; Gallos, 1993), reflecting their own experiences and identity as women. For women, communication is a means of seeking and providing confirmation and support. Women seek consensus and connection in interactions with others rather than establishing hierarchy and status as is common in interactions among men (Tannen, 1990). As I look at the ways we have conducted and taught our classes in business schools, I ask whether the ways we conduct our classes are consistent with (a) the changing gender composition of the work force, (b) the recognition that women and men approach the learning experience with some different concerns and needs, and (c) the evolving philosophy and practices of many of today’s high-performance business organizations. To what extent do we recognize these transitions not only in the content we cover in the course but also in the ways that we teach organizational behavior (OB)? This article looks at the process of teaching in the OB classroom using a relational lens. To that end, I would like to briefly present relational theory, review several reports on the use of relational practice in organizations, and summarize articles published in the Journal of Management Education over the past 9 years that are relational in nature. Then I will present some thoughts about the application of relational practice in management and OB classrooms.

Additional Information

Journal of Management Education. 26(3), 274-290
Language: English
Date: 2002
Relational Psychology Theory, Management Education, Organizational Behavior Classrooms, Women's Learning Process

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