Postmodernist Idea for Understanding Organizations


A proper understanding of an organization enables its management to accomplish the desired goals and objectives. The critical and post-modern theories offer a good approach that can be used to better understand organizations. Today, many organizations are going through major changes that necessitate a deeper level of understanding if at all the management is to attain its set goals. In addition, such an understanding is also important because it helps organizations to implement strategies that would counter competitors’ strategies. Some of the major changes within an organization include an increase in the size and/or capacity, effects of globalization, rapid implementation of information and communication technology, the changing nature of the work, a complex market and customers who are well informed and therefore more likely to demand enhanced quality of products and services.

In the face of the aforementioned challenges faced by organizations, there is the need to explore various theories of management and how they could be useful in helping us to better understand such organizations. One of the theories of management that warrant an exploration is the critical theory. This theory entails the work that takes place in contemporary society especially with regard to such issues as exploitation, unfairness, asymmetrical power, and distorted communication, amongst other issues. Asymmetrical power affects the issues of class, gender, and position in an organization. Postmodernism deals with major social and organizational changes that take place in an organization and affect such an organization is a great way (Raymond, 1981 126). The management in an organization has several functions but the goals of the organization cannot be achieved if its management does not understand the structure of the organization and the reasons why such an organization would opt to pursue a given organizational structure and not any other. There are various factors that impact greatly the structure of an organization. These include power, vertical and horizontal differentiation, formalization, coordination, and control. The nature of contemporary management and the society at large is that these two institutions are deeply associated with the ethical issues affecting a given organization in question. The nature of today’s organizational environment is changing rapidly and contemporary theories of management are important in interpreting these changes. Motivation affects the emotions of employees in an organization and is an important aspect of achieving the goals of an organization. This paper will seek to analyze post-modernist theories, self-reflexive processes, and cultural studies that are important in understanding the culture and structure of organizations.

Critical and Post-Modern Theories

The critical and postmodern theories are concerned with social problems that affect organizations. In an effort at dealing with the emerging issues within an organization, the management may opt to undertake research with a view to assessing the causes of such problems. In this case, use may be made of such data collection tools as a questionnaire. Data obtained from the survey conducted is then analyzed with such statistical tools as the Scientific Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) or even Microsoft Excel (MS Excel). Usually, the findings of such a research study not only help to reveal possible hindrances to a smooth running of an organization, but they also help an organization to come up with strategies for better management. In addition, conducting research on an organization also helps to shed light on the underlying issues within such an organization, and consequently, the management is better able to understand the firm. Organization theories come in handy during the interpretation of the research findings. In this case, communication is seen as an important aspect of these theories. Many organizations have implemented information and communication systems to better understand their operations. Social processes and rules of language influence the knowledge that individuals acquire. Postmodern theories are based on rationality, motivation, and emotion (Parker, 1992 14). Although these are innate characteristics of an individual, nonetheless, they could still impact greatly on an organization. There are ethical issues that affect organizations in a certain way. For example, the issue of discrimination of minorities in organizations greatly affects the success of the organization. Discrimination of individuals within the workplace either along racial or gender lines is not only demeaning to the employees within such an organization, but it is also a reflection of a failure by the organization in question to adequately address such an issue that may ultimately affect its reputation. Globalization has been a cause of tension in many organizations especially on the part of individuals who are victims of discrimination. For example, thanks to globalization, an increasing number of employees have secured gainful employment in foreign countries. While in such foreign countries, there is the likelihood that they will be regarded as second best compared to their fellow employees who are the citizens of such a country in question.

Identity Politics, Capitalism and Management Theories

Identity politics basically focuses on the social minority groups in an organization in relation to self-interest. In different organizations, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and other identities of employees affect the employees in a great way. Individuals from the minority groups have been very vocal as they endeavor to fight for their rights as employees within organizations (Raymond, 1981 29). These employees have been affected by ethical issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination when it comes to promotions and recruitment, discrimination, and remunerations. There are organizations that have very few individuals from certain races, gender, ethnic groups, and other minorities groups. This has affected the profitability of such organizations in a great way. Ownership of some organizations is maintained by certain individuals. Such individuals take control of the organizations and control the operations that take place in them. They choose who is to be hired and who is to occupy which positions in the organization. Organizations with such issues are often faced with major resistance as far as growth and development are concerned.

Today’s Organizations

In understanding today’s organizations, there is the need to deeply examine the critical and postmodern theories and the role they play in such organizations. The area of an organization that is mostly affected by these theories is the human resource department. The activities of employees’ recruitment and promotion are the hardest hit. Globalization has led to a situation whereby organizations have a broad range of employees to hire. This comes along with many issues that affect an organization in a great manner. For successful organizations, the human resource department plays a major role in ensuring that the employees are satisfied in the various positions that they occupy within the workplace.


One major issue that these theories can address is the issue of discrimination experienced in recruitment. When a vacancy is announced in an organization, individuals from different backgrounds are expected to apply. Both qualified and unqualified candidates apply. The human resource team is charged with the responsibility of selecting those individuals who are qualified for the position and invite them for interviews so as to pick the best amongst them. Unfortunately, there are some organizations where individuals from certain groups do not have equal opportunities for joining the position regardless of their qualifications (Denhardt, 1981 43). An assessment of today’s organizations reveals disparities in terms of the workforce within racial dimensions. There is also a discrepancy in terms of gender, with a majority of the organizations having an almost all-male workforce. This is an indication that employment opportunities are not equal for all applicants. There are allegations that if an African American applies for a vacancy along with his/her white counterpart of similar qualifications, there is the likelihood of an individual from one of the two races getting that job opportunity at the expense of the other. Critical and postmodern theories are very useful in understanding this aspect of discrimination with regard to employment.

Discrimination is also experienced when it comes to promotions. Most of the top posts in organizations are held by individuals from the dominant communities. Individuals from minority groups do not assume these positions not because they are not qualified but because they do not come from these major communities. At the end of the day, they end up settling for low-paying jobs. Other individuals who are discriminated against at the workplace during the employees’ recruitment exercise are women. Promotions are in most cases given to men who come from major communities. Such forms of discrimination can better be understood in terms of critical and postmodern theories.


Unfairness takes place when two employees assuming equal positions are given different payments and are treated in different ways in terms of allowances and the allocation of duties. Some organizations give special treatment to individuals from some major communities. Those individuals who come from minority groups such as African Americans, women, and others are treated unfairly. Some individuals from these minority groups are given higher positions but they do not assume the powers they are supposed to assume. This can be seen as a way of giving them the opportunities so that they think they are considered but there are no powers.


Harassment takes place when the rights of an individual are violated against his or her wishes. Some organizations have issues of sexual harassment where ladies claim to have been harassed by men as they were performing their tasks. Managers take advantage of employees working under them and violate their rights making suggestive dialogues or even forcing them to participate in immoral acts so as to retain their jobs. Individuals from minority groups are the most affected in many organizations. In addition to sexual harassment, some individuals from minor groups undergo physical harassment for any mistake that they make.

The human resource helps in recruitment, orientation, training, and motivation. All these affect the production and eventually the goals of the organization. To understand an organization, it is important to check its recruitment process. Discriminating against such minority groups as women, African Americans, and others reduce diversity which is an advantage in any organization. Diversity helps an organization to enlarge its market and implement talents from different places. The ideas that individuals from minority groups possess are very important to an organization. Such individuals know the needs of the individuals from the groups they belong to. Discrimination against individuals from minority groups, therefore, affects the profitability of an organization. Discriminating with respect to promotions is likely to deflate the morale of employees who come from the discriminated groups. Their output will eventually be below because they do not see the importance of working hard. The human resource department should ensure that the rights of all employees are respected regardless of their backgrounds.

In the early days, employees received training only when they joined the organization. There was no more training when new technologies emerged. Motivation to employees was minimal. When a vacancy emerged in a higher position, the management looked for an individual from outside the organization to come and fill the vacancy available. In the past, many organizations did not have a human resource management department that caters to the needs of the employees. Today, these organizations have sought to embrace the critical and postmodern theory with a view to explaining the reasons behind the observed changes in these organizations. The structures are the ones that greatly changed.

Today’s organizations engage in a very serious process of recruitment so that the quality of employees hired is high. Some organizations even involve psychologists to help in the process. The employees hired are then given proper orientation and training. This increases their knowledge and confidence. They are not only trained in their fields but also in other fields so that an employee can take on a task as a whole and not a part of the task. Training is not given to new employees only but all employees undergo some training every year so that they can keep up with the emerging technologies and increase their knowledge. All employees undergo training so that they can develop together. Organizations that have trained their employees regularly have acquired high levels of success in meeting their goals.

Employees’ motivation is another important part of contemporary management that helps in understanding organizations. The success of an organization is greatly affected by the motivation of employees. Those organizations motivate their employees to achieve high levels of success. Promotion acts as a motivator to the employees in an organization. However, the strategy used in promotion must be effective so that employees feel motivated. Organizations that promote employees on basis of performance increase the morale of other employees so that they can also be promoted (Deetz, 2009 par. 3). Again, most organizations prefer promoting an employee from within when a vacancy exists instead of acquiring an individual who does not know the operations in the organization. Employees work harder when they see a possibility of being promoted. There are certain employees in an organization that greatly contribute to the success of an organization. Such employees are rewarded so that they keep working harder. This will also challenge other employees who will even work harder so as to beat the best. Pay also acts as a motivator. Paying a reasonable amount of money to employees and giving it in time motivates employees. Delaying employees’ money reduces their morale to work. When employees are paid, their needs are most likely satisfied. This will increase their production in an organization. Today’s organization greatly relates their success to motivation and this has helped them achieve their goals.

Communication in an Organization

Communication is an important aspect of any organization. According to the postmodern theory, there are certain assumptions that are connected to communication in the organization. People make rational decisions because they have access to information that helps them make these rational decisions. A breakdown in the communication process may however affect the decision. Information is likely to be distorted in the process of communication and any distortions ought to be removed when the information gets to the receiver. Two organizations that have similar operations may use the same strategies to achieve success. The differences that result in the failure of any of these two organizations could be the deciding factor between the success of either of these two organizations (or lack of).

Importance of Identity and Power in the Employment Relationship

The identity and power of the different individuals in an organization are very important. Many organizations assume a hierarchy of power in which the top management is the most powerful body. The directors in different departments occupy the second level of power. This enhances the level of respect in an organization especially if the organization does not discriminate against some employees from minor communities. This is likely to reduce conflicts where subordinate employees obey the commands given by the top management. Power is also important when it comes to chaos. The management which is more powerful in some cases takes the opportunity to have the final say on some issues that cannot be agreed on. Power on the part of employees allows the employees to make some decisions instead of wasting a lot of time going to the management to seek answers for questions they already have solutions to.


If at all an organization is to maintain a competitive edge in the market, it is important that its management fully understands the changes that are likely to take place in such an organization. Such changes would include the organization’s increases in size, the acquisition of new employees, or an alteration in the organization structure, amongst dithers. In this case, the application of critical theory in an organization enables the management to better understand the possible changes that are likely to occur. While dealing with employment relationships, the issue of identity and power is important. Dealing with the issue of harassment, unfairness, and discrimination in the workplace is also important as this aid in enhancing the workforce.


Deetz, S, Critical Theory Approach to Organizations, Presentation Transcript, 2009, Web.

Denhardt, R, Toward a Critical Theory of Public Organization. University of Missouri, Columbia, 1981.

Gergen, K. 1992. “Organizational Theory in the Post-Modern Era: new directions in organization theory and analysis” London: Sage Publications, p 207-226.

Parker, M. 1991. “Post-Modern Organizations or Postmodern Organization Theory?” Organization Studies, 13, no.1: 1-17.

Raymond, G, The Idea of a Critical Theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School. Cambridge University Press, London, 1981.

Tracy, S. 2000. Becoming a character for commerce: Emotion labor, self subordination and discursive construction of identity in a total institution. Management Communication Quarterly, 14: 90–128.

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