Jeffrey Pfeffer

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Jeffrey Pfeffer (born July 23, 1946, St. Louis, Missouri), is an American business theorist and the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and is considered one of today's most influential management thinkers.


  • Every piece of data suggests that workplaces are in dire shape and there is low levels of trust in leaders. For instance, data on employee engagement from Gallup show that worldwide only about 13% of employees report being engaged with their work, and in the U.S., the number is barely higher at 20%. Job satisfaction has declined almost linearly since 1987 to the present. The Edelman Trust index indicates that the public at large has low trust in leaders, while other surveys show that employees do not expect their own leaders to make ethical decisions or to consistently tell them the truth about difficult situations.

The External Control of Organizations, 1978


Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald R. Salancik, The External Control of Organizations, Harper & Row, 1978; 2003

  • The theme of this book, and the underlying premise of the external perspective on organizations, is that organizational activities and outcomes are accounted for by the context in which the organization is embedded.
    • (2003; 39)
  • The criticality of a resource can be measured as the ability of an organization to function in the absence of the resource or in the absence of the market for the output.
    • p. 46

Organizations and organization theory, 1982


Jeffrey Pfeffer (1982). Organizations and organization theory.

  • The domain of organization theory is coming to resemble more of a weed patch than a well-tended garden. Theories of the middle range (Merton, 1968; Pinder and Moore, 1979) proliferate, along with measures, terms, concepts, and research paradigms. It is often difficult to discern in what direction knowledge of organizations is progressing — or if, it is progressing at all. Researchers, students of organization theory, and those who look to such theory for some guidance about issues of management and administration confront an almost bewildering array of variables, perspectives, and inferred prescriptions.
  • The neglect of context, it is argued, leads to the development of theories that do not have the potential of understanding development and change over time or for understanding the subtle nuances of interaction that are critical in apprehending what is really occurring.
    • p. 75
  • According to the resource dependence perspective, firms do not merely respond to external constraint and control through compliance to environmental demands. Rather, a variety of strategies may be undertaken to somehow alter the situation confronting the organization to make compliance less necessary.
    • p. 197
  • The theories in this chapter, focusing on the individual level of analysis, differ somewhat from those in the next chapter, in which a more organizational level of analysis is employed. Although all of the theories are essentially cognitive and social definitionist in nature, particularly as developed in the general sociological literature, there are at least two important subgroups within the social constructionist perspective.
    • p. 209

New Directions for Organization Theory, 1997


Jeffrey Pfeffer. New Directions for Organization Theory: Problems and Prospects. Oxford University Press, 5 jun. 1997.

  • In New Directions for Organization Theory, Jeffrey Pfeffer offers a comprehensive analysis and overview of the field of organization theory and its research literature. This work traces the evolution of organization studies, particularly its more recent history, and highlights the principle concepts and controversies characterizing the study of organizations. Pfeffer argues that the world of organizations has changed in several important ways, including the increasing externalization of employment and the growing use of contingent workers; the changing size distribution of organizations, with a larger proportion of smaller organizations; the increasing influence of external capital markets on organizational decision-making and a concomitant decrease in managerial autonomy; and increasing salary inequality within organizations in the US compared both to the past and to other industrialized nations. These changes and their public policy implications make it especially important to understand organizations as social entities. But Pfeffer questions whether the research literature of organization studies has either addressed these changes and their causes or made much of a contribution to the discussion of public policy...
    • Book abstract.

Quotes about Jeffrey Pfeffer

  • BEHAVIORAL THEORIES OF THE FIRM: A turn from structure to internal processes was the theme of authors such as Richard Cyert and James March, Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn, and Karl Weick... All but one... was a psychologist by education, so it should not be surprising that their view of organization theory emphasizes internal processes and resembles the micro approach of organizational behavior. Another group of theorists, all but one educated as a sociologist, viewed organizations as a product of macro environmental forces. These behavioralists were Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald Salancik, Michael Hannan and John Freeman, and John Meyer and Richard Scott. Pfeffer (the only non-sociologist) and Salancik presented a resource-dependent theory that postulates that organizations require support from their external environment and can only survive to the extent that this support is forthcoming. Managers form coalitions to gather support in an open system of external relationships in which there are constraints that create either a munificent or scarce resource situation.
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