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University of Exeter Business School

Micro-Level Organisation Theory

Module titleMicro-Level Organisation Theory
Module codeBEMM219
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Kim Peters (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will learn about some essential micro-level theories that are commonly used in management research. Micro-level theories focus on the interaction between individual and groups and are used to explore key themes in management such as leadership, teamwork, and relationships. Understanding these key theories is one of the critical components of management research and is essential for designing research, writing a literature review and discussing the theoretical implication of your research. This module will facilitate an understanding of the field of management with regard to its approach to theory building and testing. Students will development key scholarship skills, such as the critique of papers, developing research questions, testable hypotheses, and research designs. Theories from several social sciences including psychology and sociology are integrated to understand and analyse people’s attitudes, behaviours and relationships at work.  

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • Prepare students for independent research informed by the main micro-level theories utilised in management research
  • Ensure that students are familiar with the major foundational sociological and psychological theories applied in management (such as social exchange, social comparisons, individual differences, identity, conflict, and motivation)
  • Introduce students to key theoretical concepts that underpin our understanding of micro-level phenomenon in organisations
  • Enable students to build their research on sound theoretical principles
  • Equip students with skills to critically evaluate key micro-level theories used in management research and compare different perspectives/theories, their advantages and disadvantages within the context of management research and identify gaps in these theories

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the foundational micro-level theories of sociological and psychological research relevant to business and management research.
  • 2. Discuss the importance of studying micro-level organisational behaviour for understanding management

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Apply theoretical principles to analyse micro-level organisational behaviour
  • 4. Critically evaluate organisational theories and identify theoretical gaps
  • 5. Demonstrate the ability to independently review (i.e., understand, synthesise and critically evaluate) academic work that discusses or uses such theories.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Critically assess competing theories
  • 7. Demonstrate ability to build theoretical arguments within management research

Syllabus plan

Introduction to key theories from psychology and sociology and provide examples of their integration into the study of management. This will include theories such as social exchange, social interaction, individual differences, motivation, and social identification, teams, and conflict.

Sessions will involve the discussion and analysis of key texts that demonstrate the link between key theories and topics such as leadership, relationships, teamworking, and motivation.  Students will be encouraged to identify and articulate the key principles involved for each topic area and to subject these to critical evaluation within a business research context. This critical evaluation will involve key aspects of theories and a discussion on how to identify theoretical gaps to guide research questions. Students will also discuss importance of integrating theories for building novelty and complexity in research

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Seminars22The seminar will involve a tutor-led but not dominated discussion of key texts that student will be required to read before the session. The discussion will focus on a critical analysis of the theoretical topic.
Pre-reading of articles40Read all assigned articles prior to each session
Assessment preparation88Reading and writing related to the two assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Regular verbal feedback on in-class on discussion and participatory activitiesRegular discussion in lecture1,2,3,4,5,6,7Verbal feedback to individual students and groups

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Written Assignment603000 words1,2,3,4,5,7Written feedback and grade
Individual Presentation4030 minute presentation – including questions1,2,3,4,5,6,7Oral and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual Written AssignmentIndividual Written Assignment 1,2,3,4,5,7January Assessment Period
Individual PresentationRecorded presentation1,2,3,4,5,6,7Within 6 weeks

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: Weekly reading provided by lecturer (academic journal articles)

Indicative readings:

Cropanzano, R., Anthony, E. L., Daniels, S. R., & Hall, A. V. (2017). Social exchange theory: A critical review with theoretical remedies. Academy of Management Annals11(1), 479-516.

Carter, D. R., DeChurch, L. A., Braun, M. T., & Contractor, N. S. (2015). Social network approaches to leadership: An integrative conceptual review. Journal of Applied Psychology100(3), 597.

Van den Broeck, A., Ferris, D. L., Chang, C. H., & Rosen, C. C. (2016). A review of self-determination theory’s basic psychological needs at work. Journal of Management42(5), 1195-1229.

Avolio, B.J., Walumbwa, F.O. & Weber, T.J. (2009). Leadership: Current theories, research, and future directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 421-449.

van Dijk, H., Meyer, B., van Engen, M., & Loyd, D. (2016). Microdynamics in diverse teams: A review and integration of the diversity and stereotyping literatures. Academy of Management Annals.

Pelled, L., Eisenhardt, K. & Xin, K. (1999). Exploring the black box: An analysis of work group diversity, conflict and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 1-28.

Hackman, J.R. 1987. The design of work teams. In J. Lorsch (Ed.), Handbook of organizational behavior, 315-342. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Jehn, K.A., Mannix, E.A. (2001). The Dynamic Nature of Conflict: A Longitudinal Study of Intragroup Conflict and Group Performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 238-251.

Bendersky, C. and Hays, N. (2012). Status conflict in groups. Organization Science, 23(2): 323-340.

Barsade, Sigal G. (2002). The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and its Influence on Group Behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 644-675.

Diefendorff, J. M., & Chandler, M. M. (2011). Motivating employees. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, vol. 3: Maintaining, expanding, and contracting the organization (pp. 65-135). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Staw, B.M., (1974). Attitudinal and Behavioral Consequences of Changing a Major Organizational Reward: A Natural Field Experiment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 742-751.

Gagne, M., & Deci, E. L. 2005. Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 331–362.

Locke, E.A. & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35 year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57: 705-717.

Staw, B., Bell, N. & Clausen, J. (1986). The Dispositional Approach to Job Attitudes: A Lifetime Longitudinal Test. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31, 56-77.

Arvey, R.D, Li, W. & Wang, N. (2016). Genetics and organizational behavior. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 3:167-190.

Key words search

Micro-level organisational theory

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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