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Management Theory of Mary Parker Follett Key Terms

By Lesley Graybeal, writer
Jun 05, 2010
Image Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock
> Business Basics

Learn the terms you need to understand and employ Follett's management theory

Mary Parker Follett is well known in the field of management theory for her humanistic and socially just viewpoint on management structures and conflict resolution within organizations.

Follett built on classical management principles to lay the foundation for much of the modern management theory ideas in use today. Mary Parker Follett is also highly regarded as one of the forerunners of feminist organizational theory, which advocated defining organizational and management concepts through women's ways of knowing and navigating the social world.

Management theory

Follett's work drew from and contributed to management theory, or modern management theory. This refers to the contemporary science of examining the function of organizational structures and hierarchies of authority. This includes not just the study of productivity, but also how power is constructed and how disputes are resolved.

Coercive and coactive power

Mary Parker Follett embraced two different types of power: coercive power and coactive power. Coercive power is power of one group or individual over another, while coactive power involves the sharing of responsibilities and rewards within a power structure.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution, as defined by Follett, was an alternative dispute resolution strategy designed to reframe the problem so that the outcome is a balanced result of the interests of all parties involved. Follett cites the example of sitting in a library where she wanted a window shut and another person wanted it open; to resolve the conflict, a window was opened in another room, reframing the situation without compromising the interests of any one party.


Follett defined democracy as a process of existing in the social world, rather than merely a political activity or set of civil rights. Follett linked her concept of democracy to community involvement and cooperative group effort, indicating that her notion of democracy was social rather than individualistic.

Business administration

Business administration or management is defined by Mary Parker Follett as a process of controlling processes and events to achieve results that target a specific human benefit. As such, Follett's idea of business administration is not merely a bureaucratic structure of efficient governance and oversight, but instead an ethical process designed to improve the social conditions of people.

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Lesley Graybeal
Lesley Graybeal
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