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Careers in Organisations

In this section we will consider how organisations are relevant to Career. As career development professionals we might be employed or contracted by organisations, we will liaise with others, and our clients may be working in and/or applying to evaluating employer organisations.

First we consider organisations and how they work, using Gareth Morgan's work on Images of Organization as a route in.

Morgan describes 8 metaphors (a similar approach to that of Kerr Inkson) of organisation. On the teaching days we will consider these images and what they might suggest for an organisation's position within the labour market, as well as the career management needs that may arise from them.

The book explores and develops the art of reading and understanding organisational life. It is based on a very simple premise: that all theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that lead us to see, understand, and manage organisations in distinctive yet partial ways.

The use of metaphor implies a way of thinking and a way of seeing that pervades how we understand our world generally.

As Morgan notes, any metaphor offers a partial way of looking at something. Like looking at a mountain from different sides, different metaphors offer different perspectives. Thus any metaphor is incomplete, and potentially misleading. To say that a man is a lion suggests that he is brave and strong, but not that he has four legs and is covered in fur.

A metaphor is neither true nor false. Rather, the usefulness of a metaphor depends on the richness of the insights it generates.

Morgan is arguing that "all theory is metaphor". He writes that:

"The challenge is to become skilled in the art of using metaphor: to find fresh ways of seeing, understanding and shaping the situations that we want to organize and manage."

In these materials we shall consider five of the eight metaphors that Morgan explores in Images of Organization. The five metaphors we shall look at are:

The other three metaphors which Morgan covers in his book are:

Organisations as psychic prisons
Organisation as flux and transformation
Organisations as instruments of domination

Morgan's field of organisation studies has also contributed to the career development literature. Concepts such as the protean career (Hall), the boundaryless career (Rousseau and Arthur) and career success (Heslin) all come from the organisational perspective.

Reading: Career as Resources

This chapter of Kerr Inkson's book summarises the 'organisational' literature around career. It is provided in your reading pack This was also touched upon in the 'Additional Definitions, Disciplines and Types of Career Theory' section of the Career Development Theories module.


Thanks to Bob Thomson, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School who has contributed resources to this section.