HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation, HKS; Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, HBS


Environmental destruction and social inequalities are increasingly urgent challenges. How can corporations, which have played a key role in creating and reproducing these problems, be part of the solution? In this paper, we advance that a shift to more democratic forms of organizing within corporations may be an important part of this transition. We first review scholarship on the disempowerment of workers. We then make the case for democratizing organizations, arguing that workers need to participate in firm decision-making so they can protect their rights and interests. We further suggest that democratic organizing practices may enable corporations to successfully pursue social and environmental objectives alongside financial ones, which is also important for addressing societal challenges. We then propose a research agenda for studying the democratization of organizations and its implications. In doing so, we highlight how organization scholars can build on prior research on democratic forms of organizing and draw from extant social science research outside of mainstream management scholarship. We conclude by calling for research that will document, and help us better understand, what it takes to develop democratic and sustainable organizations and societies.


Battilana, Julie, Julie Yen, Isabelle Ferreras, and Lakshmi Ramarajan. "Democratizing Work: Redistributing power in organizations for a democratic and sustainable future." Organization Theory 3.1 (January-March 2022): 1-21.