Guidance for assignment BE434
The coursework question is asking you to write an essay that looks at a claim by
Hugh Willmott in his 1993 paper, namely this:
“corporate culturism endeavours to secure control by managing the impression of
respecting the distinctiveness and individuality of each employee”
In order to approach this question, you should read the article carefully to see what he
argues, and think how this relates to the themes we have covered in the module so far.
These themes have all been related to the different psychological assumptions that
management practices can be based on. We have looked at two main sets of
assumptions, the humanist view of the mind and the mechanistic/behaviourist view of
the mind. Lecture 1 discussed the former, lecture 2 looked at the historical context of
the latter and lecture 3 discussed the theoretical basis for the latter. When reading the
article, consider how these themes are of relevance to what Willmott is saying.
The questions asks you to critically evaluate Willmott’s statement. The statement
addresses how the management of corporate culture relates to the individuals in the
workplace, how it addresses them.
As part of your critical evaluation you should:
• Convey Willmott’s general argument in the paper
• Examine what assumptions are being made in terms of management
psychology (which is what the module is on, of course)
• Express your own views on Willmott’s argument, and support these with the
appropriate academic sources and evidence.
Hugh Willmott’s main argument
Willmott’s article is a critical indictment of those management writers and managers
who propose the management of organisational culture as a way of raising
productivity. He calls such management “corporate culturism”, and he sees it as a
disingenuous way of giving employees more autonomy and freedom in the
workplace. While such management of corporate culture pretends to create a more
open and democratic workplace, Willmott argues it is actually fully aimed at
reshaping the thoughts and feelings of employees to be in line with corporate aims.
Make sure that you convey in your essay how and why Willmott makes these points,
and what the implications are.
Assumptions in terms of management psychology
As I mentioned above, this relates to lectures 1 to 3 (though further lectures will also
address this). The section in Willmott’s article that deals very directly with the
psychology that underpins corporate culture management can be found on pages 523-
526. Now, this is what Willmott argues underpins such management theory and
practice. This is what he argues is the psychological basis of such management, what
the managers who use such approaches assume in terms of the human mind.
There is also the question of what Willmott himself assumes about the mind of the
individual. Can you work that out? And if so, where and how does he give indications
of this in the text? Is there a difference in terms of his psychological notion of the
individual as opposed to that within corporate culturism? Or are is objections mainly
about the ethics of corporate culturism?
Your own argument
A critical evaluation implies that you critique Willmott’s argument. This means that
you have to form an opinion of what he is saying, by examining the evidence he
brings to the table and drawing on evidence of your own (i.e. academic sources) to
support your own position. There are many different options here, and it really comes
down to what your line of thinking is.
Some lines of argument could include:
• The viability of culture management in organisations. Is it usually successful?
• The ethics of culture management. Is it acceptable to management people’s
‘hearts and minds’ in the workplace?
• The psychological argument. What makes people tick and how does that affect
our view of the management of culture?
But many other ways of engaging with his views are possible. These are merely the
most obvious ones in terms of the assignment. It is important that you link your own
argument back to your assessment of the psychological underpinnings that you
Guidance for assignment BE434