UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Management of laboratories : examining symbolic and substantive outcomes Pickard, Lynette Elizabeth


Pfeffer (1981) contends that the role of the manager is chiefly symbolic. The purpose of this study was to investigate his claims that the manager's effect is primarily on symbolic outcomes and less on substantive outcomes; that external power holders have a small effect on symbolic outcomes; and that substantive and symbolic aspects of organizational activity are loosely linked. Two hospital laboratories in Western Canada (similar along many dimensions) were chosen for inclusion in the study. Through observation, interviewing and examination of records, the researcher obtained information on relationships between the actions of managers and other power holders and substantive and symbolic outcomes. Pfeffer's theory was used to form the classification system for categorizing findings. In addition to a deductive approach, the researcher attempted to discover patterns from the data. Steps were taken to check potential sources of invalidity. Study findings indicated that external power holders have a small effect on symbolic outcomes. Pfeffer's claim that management has a greater impact on beliefs, attitudes and feelings than on tangible outcomes was not supported. Reasons for this may be that managerial effect on symbolic outcomes is contingent on managerial motivation, type of symbolic action, level of management, type of organization and time in the organizational life cycle. There was little evidence to support Pfeffer's claim that substantive and symbolic aspects of organizational activity are imperfectly linked. The explanation of this appears to be that factors affecting the strength of coupling differ with the type of symbolic action employed and with the existence (or absence) of efforts to make the use of power unobtrusive. Concepts which emerged from data captured ideas not contained in Pfeffer's writings. For example, managers and external power holders may have an intentional and unintentional influence on beliefs and attitudes; and proximity to/distance from the organization influences the extent to which external power holders affect symbolic outcomes. Increased understanding of the variables affecting the relationship between symbolic and substantive outcomes and the magnitude of the manager's impact on substantive versus symbolic outcomes, may be utilized by future researchers.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.