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6 December 2023 - 6 December 2023

3:00PM - 4:30PM

Online and In-Person, Durham University Business School

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Durham University Business School

Rethinking Procrastination in Organizations: Towards a Social-Symbolic Theory

Professor Cliff Oswick, Professor in Organisation Theory, Bayes Business School, City University of London


Procrastination is typically portrayed as a negative and dysfunctional behaviour. The paper reviews the prevailing, largely psychological, ways of the thinking about work-based procrastination (i.e. as being either a trait-based, condition-based, behaviorally-contingent, or job-contingent phenomenon) and proposes four alternative social variants (i.e. interactive procrastination, co-located procrastination, co-produced procrastination, and immaterial procrastination). Moreover, a theory of ‘organizational procrastination’ is developed which locates it as a ‘social-symbolic practice’ (Lawrence and Phillips, 2019). In doing so, it is posited that procrastination can be viewed as a collective, embedded, and purposeful facet of organizational life. Hence, rather than just being seen as a mechanism by which individuals ‘avoid work’, we argue that it is also a co-constructed ‘form of work’. The implications of revising how we think about procrastination in organizations are also discussed via the example of ‘strategic awaydays’.

About Prof Oswick

Cliff joined Bayes in 2011 as a Professor in Organization Theory. He also served as Head of the Faculty of Management and Deputy Dean at Bayes between January 2011 and January 2016. Before coming to Bayes he spent 4 years at Queen Mary, University of London as a Professor of Organization Theory in the School of Business and Management and served as Dean of the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences (2007-2011). He has also previously held posts at University of Leicester (2002-2007), King’s College, University of London (1990-2002), and Westminster University (1988-1990). Before becoming a full-time academic in 1988, Cliff worked as a HR manager in local government.Cliff’s research focuses on the application of aspects of discourse, dramaturgy, tropes, narrative and rhetoric to the study of organizations and organizing. He is particularly interested in the study of leadership processes, employee engagement, and organizational change. He has published over 120 academic articles and contributions to edited volumes, including contributions to Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, Journal of Management Studies, British Journal of Management, Organization, and Organization Studies. He is the European Editor for Journal of Organizational Change Management and Associate Editor for Journal of Change Management. He is also a co-director of ICROD (the International Centre for Research on Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change), a member of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development), a member of the National Training Laboratory, chair of the board of trustees for The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, and a member of the Executive Board of the ODC (Organization Development and Change) Division of the Academy of Management. Beyond his academic responsibilities, Cliff has also undertaken a variety of consultancy projects, senior coaching activities and executive development assignments with several high-profile corporate clients.