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Article: The Variable Human

By: J.D. Thompson


This chapter which is from Thompsons renowned book Organizations in Action focuses on
the employee-organization dynamics with regards to the cultural factors which drives them. The
author states that the actions of an individual within an organization are driven by situations
which said individual faces and which that person interprets as either opportunities or
constraints. In that regard it is important for organizations to understand the culture of the
environment in which they are operating as it plays a key role in dictating the behaviors of the
human resource.
Along the lines of culture, the author further examines that todays industrialized societies
present a different culture from the transitional society in the sense that there is more diversity in
the former with regards to skills, knowledge and attitudes and in that regard, organizations have
to understand this form of diversity so that the needs of the organization can be better matched
with the needs of the individual resulting in a person-organization fit. This matching principle
can be better examined through the study of social system.
The author examines the role of societies I gearing individuals towards becoming part of
different social systems which are referred to as occupations. This creates the concept of defining
the career path of an individual. The individual from an early age is geared towards identifying
himself with a possible career through the process of both social communication and skill
assessment. The individual recognizes that he has a finite set of career options to choose from
and hence selects the one which best matches his expectations. When the individual enters into a
particular occupation, the further examination of job growth, job fit and skill awareness creates
new forms of perceptions for the individual.
The further contents of the chapter examine the employee-organization from the perspective of
the inducements/contributions theory which focuses on the idea of reward earned by an
employee if he contributes in a way which is beneficial for the organization. On this basis, the
author puts forward propositions which examine the nature of the inducements/contributions
contract which are negotiated by the employee and the organization. Within these propositions,
the author examines various aspects of the organizational environment such as the nature of the
different types of opportunities which individuals in certain positions can use as well as the
various learning processes which are associated with different job designs.