ZHANG, BIBI (2022) OBJECTIFICATION AT WORK: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW, EMPIRICAL TESTS, AND A RETHINK OF THE “HUMANS-AS-RESOURCES” FORMULA. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.
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Objectification—treating human beings as instrumental tools that are deprived of agency and experience—is a common element in many management theories and practices. Objectification seems to cater to the needs of employers attempting to maximize profits by objectifying employees. However, objectification undermines target employees’ needs, interests, and well-being. This thesis seeks to address this dilemma by looking into relevant theories and empirical evidence with regard to workplace objectification. I first examine the prevailing logic of objectification in many of labor economics and management theories. Second, I report a systematic review of objectification research that summarizes and integrates what is known about the antecedents and consequences of objectification from three different perspectives: Objectifying others, self-objectification, and experiencing objectification. This review sheds light on the dilemma of objectification, by showing that people often objectify others in order to achieve their extrinsic goals, such as money and power, or to reduce subjectivity uncertainty, while thwarting the objectified targets’ fundamental control, belonging, and self-esteem needs. Third, I present an empirical paper. Despite the negative impacts of objectification on the victims, I argue that objectification may have positive ancillary implications for the perpetrators. Drawing from system justification theory, I posit that especially in an organization characterized by higher power distance, objectifying supervisors would be afforded more power by their subordinates because they would deem such behavior as more typical (i.e., descriptive justification) and more desirable (i.e., prescriptive justification). Two experiments and one field study with supervisor-subordinate dyads were conducted to test the hypotheses. The results showed that when power distance was higher, subordinates afforded more power to an objectifying supervisor through prescriptive (but not descriptive) justification. This thesis contributes to the objectification literature by offering a unifying framework of objectification and by demonstrating when and how supervisor objectification can be rationalized and perpetuated.
|Doctor of Philosophy
|objectification, psychological needs, power distance, power affordance
|Faculty and Department:
|Faculty of Business > Management and Marketing, Department of
|Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
|12 Jul 2022 14:00