Western Washington University Western Washington University ------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------

Current Issues in Human Resource Management:
The Meaning of Work
Summer 2010

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Meets: T/W/R 10:00 am -- 11:50 am (CB 386; CRN 31196; MGMT 426)
Instructor: Assoc. Professor Craig P. Dunn, PhD
Office: PH 206A
Office Hours: by appointment
Phone: 360-650-2593 (office/voicemail)
E-mail: craig.dunn@wwu.edu
URL: www.dunn.cc

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap;
the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances
complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

--George Bernard Shaw

This course is designed to engage the student in both rigorous intellectual inquiry as well as personal reflection. Work is arguably the primary pursuit for a vast majority of us. Yet, when asked what gives purpose and meaning to our lives many of us tend to leave work off the list. Living within a culture in which many of us have lost control over our own work, work has become of merely instrumental value in the quest for other meaning-giving activities in our lives.

What is work? How does work differ from other human pursuits? What are the dimensions of work and its context which serve to provide it meaning and purpose? Are there personality variables which account for work satisfaction? These and other related questions provide the `grist' for this course.

This course has been offered within the curriculum in order to stress the necessity of experiencing meaning in our work lives...and to engage students and faculty alike in the common pursuit for work which is both purposeful as well as enjoyable. The overriding pedagogical objective is to have students develop a plan for insuring that they integrate meaning within their managerial practice. Accomplishing this objective entails introduction to a broad range of theoretic frameworks as the role of work in creating meaning, purpose and enjoyment is examined.

This course has been designed to be a challenging and exciting course. Much of the student's prior coursework has been concerned with structured topics closely related to a well-developed body of theory; not so with work and meaning. There is not a specific set of skills serving to lead you through the course, and no unifying meta-theory to inform your decisions. The problems and issues of meaningful work embrace the entire spectrum of philosophical, social, and organizational theory—as well as the fields of the arts and humanities.


1. Each student should have a clear understanding of what work is, and how work is different from other human pursuits;
2. Each student should understand the variety of ways in which work is connected with other human pursuits--a matter of integrity;
3. Each student should have a clearly articulated understanding of what gives their individual work life meaning;
4. Each student should have developed a plan for creating meaningful work in their practice of management.

A maximum of 100 points may be accumulated in this course. Point distribution varies as follows (see grading contract at back of syllabus for details):

o Reflective Journal 15 points
o Four 2-page Writing Assignments 20-35 points
o Final Paper 20-35 points
o Case Presentation 20-35 points

Grading policy anticipates that faculty members are expected to use all grades from A to F to distinguish among level of academic accomplishment, with the grade for average undergraduate achievement being a C. The following grading standards will be used to determine your final course grade. Students are responsible for monitoring their own progress throughout the semester.

93.0 - 100 points


90.0 - 92.9 points


86.5 - 89.9 points


83.0 - 86.4 points


80.0 - 82.9 points


76.5 - 79.9 points


73.0 - 76.4 points


70.0 - 72.9 points


66.5 - 69.9 points


63.0 - 66.4 points


60.0 - 62.9 points


In a section entitled Grades and Intellectual Honesty, the Western Washington University catalog states

Grades are given for the student’s work and achievement. Fair evaluation of students’ work and helpful instruction are possible only when students submit work which genuinely reflects their own reading, computation, research and thoughts and is their own production, whether in writing or other format(s). Intellectual dishonesty can result in a failing grade and the placement of a note in the student’s permanent record. For the university’s policy on academic dishonesty, see Appendix D.

Students involved in any form of academic dishonesty (including but not limited to plagiarism or `cheating') on any HNRS 355 coursework will receive a failing grade for the course.

Because Newtonian science focuses our attention on the external world and on our mental capacities,
it encourages us to seek two kinds of approaches to our challenges: physical and mental.
In the process we ignore other approaches,
the emotional and spiritual approaches that are the lifeblood of artfulness.

--Dick Richards
Artful Work: Awakening Joy, Meaning, and Commitment in the Workplace

Three texts are assigned: Working (Terkel), Nickel and Dimed (Ehrenreich), and The Hungry Spririt (Handy). Additionally, The Principles of Scientific Management (Taylor) will be referenced in this class. Students are expected to read each assigned chapter and/or article before the scheduled discussion of that reading. In addition, assigned case studies and supplementary reading materials will be made available. Assigned case studies, supplementary reading materials, and course videos will be available on the course website.

The first step to preserving the soul in our individual lives
is to admit that the world has a soul also,
and is somehow participating with us in our work and destiny.

--David Whyte
The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

For each week the class schedule will indicate a 'prompt' for your reflective journal (see course schedule for due dates). This term-long assignment accounts for fifteen percent of your course grade, and is designed to engage you in linking the course content with your final paper.

For each week during which a reflective journal assignment is posted, students are to 'cut and paste' the 'prompt' from the course schedule into a new thread within their own journal, and then provide their reflections on the 'prompt.' The reflective journal is to be kept in Blackboard. To post an entry, do the following:

o Click on the 'journal' button in the left menu bar
o Click on 'view'
o Click on 'new entry'
o Enter a BRIEF journal entry title
o Cut and paste the 'prompt' from the course schedule into the BODY of the journal entry
o Click 'save' (following completion of journal entry)

Only each individual student, as well as the faculty member, have access to journal posts--which are time and date stamped upon submission. Journal entries are evaluated on timeliness and thoroughness in addressing the issue under consideration.

There are no examinations for this course.

There will be four writing projects assigned approximately every ten days throughout the term (see course schedule for due dates). These assignments relate most particularly to the readings over the immediately prior week, either as presented in class or as covered in assigned readings.  Principal evaluation criteria will be adequacy of analysis, clarity and conciseness of arguments, use of theory to support arguments, and professionalism.

Each paper will take the form of a two page, double-spaced, typed paper which directly addresses the question(s) posed. While it is certainly allowable for students to discuss these writing assignments with one another, final papers ought to be recognizable as the 'independent' work of the student submitting the writing assignment.

Papers are to be submitted electronically to craig.dunn@wwu.edu. The e-mail memo line as well as the MS Word file name MUST begin with the LAST NAME of the student and also include the course designation (MGMT 426).

FINAL PAPER (20-35 points):
Each student is to submit a proposal no later than the second week of class outlining a project related to the general topic of creating the opportunity for meaningful work in organizations. These proposals will be reviewed by course faculty and returned to the student with relevant comments. This proposal then becomes the 'contract' for the final paper assignment.

Term projects shall be typed using double-spacing. There is no page length requirement; however, conciseness will be one of the evaluation criteria. A self-evaluation of this project (to be available in on-line schedule) is to be submitted along with the final paper draft. Students are to offer the class a presentation on their final paper project during the final week of class. Presentation can take any form which meaningfully expresses the plan outlined in the final paper. Evaluation criteria for the final paper include:

o Depth of reflection
o Adequacy of analysis
o Clarity and conciseness of plan
o Integration of course readings
o Professionalism of project
o Creativity of project
o Thoughtfulness of self-evaluation

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,
for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.
And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.
Progress is the realisation of Utopias.

--Geoffrey M. Hodgson
The Political Economy of Utopia

CASE PRESENTATION (20-35 points):

Each two-member student team is to analyze a contemporary human resource management case using the principles outlined in lecture and readings.

Each team is to prepare both a comprehensive written (due 5 days following the class presentation--and limited to five pages typed double-spaced) as well as an oral analysis of a human resource management case of their own choosing, to include: (1) a statement identifying the case issue(s); (2) listing of alternatives providing resolution of these case issues; (3) analysis of proposed resolutions from the perspective of managerial as well as philosophical theory; (4) assessment of both the financial as well as the political viability of the recommended alternative; (5) selection of optimal resolution (with supporting defense from both the managerial and philosophical perspectives); as well as (6) suggestions for implementation. Any assumptions made must be clearly identified as such, but do not 'assume away' the dilemma--resolve it!

A 'Case Proposal' form is to be submitted by each group no later than the end of the second week of the course. Cases can come from any appropriate current source; the Wall Street Journal and the 'Social Issues' column of Business Week are among the more popular periodicals for sourcing business ethics cases.

Reporting will take the form of a 30 minute oral presentation followed by a question and answer session. Be creative. Prepare the analysis as if you were presenting the information to any fitting audience you explicitly identify, to be role-played by those students not in your group (who will be accountable for posing relevant questions to the presenting group). Areas considered (in addition to those previously or subsequently mentioned) in grading the team project are listed in the table below.

o Accuracy of issue identification
o Clarity and conciseness of plan
o Use of theory to support recommendation(s)
o Soundness of recommendation(s)
o Feasibility of case resolution
o Ability to engage the class with the discussion
o Professionalism/creativity of presentation

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.
They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries,
but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities,
have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well)
and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world.
The continued development of technology will worsen the situation.
It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world,
it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering,
and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.

--the Unibomber Manifesto

Outlined above are the course activities available to students, including ranges of possible points. Each student is to fill out and return to the instructor a binding contract for work to be completed this term (see below). You are to fill out the number of points desired for each activity. The total number of points must total 100. Points for each activity will range from 15-35% of the course grade, depending upon the individual assignment and weightings. Points must be selected in increments of 5.

For example, a student may choose to minimize the points on the Final Paper and the Writing Assignments (20 points each) by completing Seminar Facilitation and Reading Report at their maximum point objectives (i.e., 30 points plus 15 points), plus the Reflective Journal at 15 points.

o Reflective Journal 15 points
o Four 2-page Writing Assignments 25 points
o Final Paper 25 points
o Case Presentation 35 points

In all cases, class participation is mandatory. Failure to attend and participate in scheduled class sessions may be reflected in final course grading.

To send your MGMT 426 contract, fill out the following form thoroughly and completely. This form must be submitted electronically. A copy of each contract will be posted to the course Blackboard site by the end of the second week of class.

Management 426 Contract:

The following agreement is entered into by the designated MGMT 426 student and Professor Dunn for work to be completed Summer term, 2010. It is understood that this agreement is not subject to change. Additionally, course participation (or lack thereof) may be reflected in final course grading.

Section #

First Name: Last Name:

Complete E-mail Address:

Point Objective for Reflective Journal:

Point Objective for Writing Assignments:

Point Objective for Final Paper:

Point Objective for Case Presentation:

Please make certain the above point objectives total 100.

By sending this form, you agree to be evaluated on the basis of this contract as well as by the terms of the course as outlined in this syllabus.

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