Employee-management techniques: Transient fads or trending fashions?

Eric Abrahamson*, Micki Eisenman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


In this theory development case study, we focus on the relations across recurrent waves in the amount and kind of language promoting and diffusing, and then demoting and rejecting, management techniques - techniques for transforming the input of organizational labor into organizational outputs. We suggest that rather than manifesting themselves as independent, transitory, and un-cumulative fads, the language of repeated waves cumulates into what we call management fashion trends. These trends are protracted and major transformations in what managers read, think, express, and enact that result from the accumulation of the language of these consecutive waves. For the language of five waves in employee-management techniques-management by objectives, job enrichment, quality circles, total quality management, and business process reengineering-we measure rational and normative language suggesting, respectively, that managers can induce labor financially or psychologically. The results reveal a gradual intensification in the ratio of rational to normative language over repeated waves, suggesting the existence of a management fashion trend across these techniques. Lexical shifts over time, however, serve to differentiate a fashion from its predecessor, creating a sense of novelty and progress from the earlier to the later fashions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)719-744
Number of pages26
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


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