Gerald R. Salancik

American organizational theorist

Gerald R. (Jerry) Salancik (Jan. 29, 1943 - July 24, 1996) was an American organizational theorist, and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He is best known for his work with Jeffrey Pfeffer on "organizational decision making" and "the external control of organizations."


  • The effects of subunit power on organizational decision making and the bases of subunit power are examined in a large midwestern state university. It is hypothesized that subunits acquire power to the extent that they provide resources critical to the organization and that power affects resource allocations within organizations in so far as the resource is critical to the subunits and scarce within the organization. Departmental power is found to be most highly correlated with the department's ability to obtain outside grants and contracts, with national prestige and the relative size of the graduate program following closely in importance. Power is used most in the allocation of graduate university fellowships, the most critical and scarce resource, and is unrelated to the allocation of summer faculty fellowships, the least critical and scarce resource.
    • Gerald R. Salancik, and Jeffrey Pfeffer. "The bases and use of power in organizational decision making: The case of a university." Administrative Science Quarterly (1974): 453-473; p. 454; Abstract.
  • The most frequently encountered view of commitment in organizations is one having to do with an individual's psychological bond to the organization.
    • Barry M. Staw & ‎Gerald R. Salancik (1977). New directions in organizational behavior. p. 2
  • Two contributors to explicitness are the observability of the act and the unequivocality of the act. Some acts are not observable and we may know them only by inference from assumed consequences. You leave a dollar bill on a checkout counter, turn away for a moment, then find it missing. The consequence is obvious, but do you know if the customer next to you took it or if it was carried away by a draft from the open door? Acts themselves can be equivocal, forgotten, or otherwise intractable.
    • Barry M. Staw & ‎Gerald R. Salancik (1977). New directions in organizational behavior. p. 4
  • Commitment is a state of being in which an individual becomes bound by his actions and through this actions to beliefs that sustain his activities and his own involvement.
    • Gerald R. Salancik (1982), "Attitude-behavior consistencies as social logics." Consistency in social behavior: The Ontario symposium. Vol. 2. 1982. p. 207
  • Success ruins everything.[1]

A social information processing approach to job attitudes and task design. 1978


Gerald R. Salancik and Jeffrey Pfeffer. "A social information processing approach to job attitudes and task design." Administrative science quarterly (1978): 224-253.

  • This article outlines a social information processing approach to explain job attitudes. In comparison with need-satisfaction and expectancy models of job attitudes and motivation, the social information processing perspective emphasizes the effects of context and the consequences of past choices, rather than individual predispositions and rational decision-making processes. When an individual develops statements about attitudes or needs, he or she uses social information - information about past behavior and about what others think. The process of attributing attitudes or needs from behavior is itself affected by commitment processes, by the saliency and relevance of information, and by the need to develop socially acceptable and legitimate rationalizations for actions. Both attitudes and need statements, as well as characterizations of jobs, are affected by informational social influence. The implications of the social information processing perspective for organization development efforts and programs of job redesign are discussed.
    • p. 224; Abstract
  • People as adaptive organisms adjust their behavior and beliefs to the social context and to the reality of their own past and present behavior and situation.
    • p. 226
  • The term rationalize refers to any situations in which a person's action is described with reference to some supporting reason or cause. The term “legitimate” refers to one criterion by which rationalizations are selected from the many possible explanations for action. Justifications or rationalizations are selected primarily when they are acceptable explanations in a given social context. This means they fit with the facts as known according to the rules of behavior generally followed.
    • p. 231

The External Control of Organizations, 1978


Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald R. Salancik, The External Control of Organizations, Harper & Row, 1978; 2003

  • The theme of this book, and the underlying premise of the external perspective on organizations, is that organizational activities and outcomes are accounted for by the context in which the organization is embedded.
    • (2003; 39)
  • The criticality of a resource can be measured as the ability of an organization to function in the absence of the resource or in the absence of the market for the output.
    • p. 46

Quotes about Gerald R. Salancik

  • There is one word that best describes Jerry Salancik: mischievous. He was always full of mischief and brought an attitude and spirit of fun and playfulness to his research and colleagues that made life interesting and stimulating.
    • Huseyin Leblebici and Joseph Porac. "Memorial for Gerald R. Salancik 1.29. 1943-7.24. 1996." Journal of Management Inquiry 6.3 (1997): 256-261.
  • BEHAVIORAL THEORIES OF THE FIRM: A turn from structure to internal processes was the theme of authors such as Richard Cyert and James March, Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn, and Karl Weick... All but one... was a psychologist by education, so it should not be surprising that their view of organization theory emphasizes internal processes and resembles the micro approach of organizational behavior. Another group of theorists, all but one educated as a sociologist, viewed organizations as a product of macro environmental forces. These behavioralists were Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald Salancik, Michael Hannan and John Freeman, and John Meyer and Richard Scott. Pfeffer (the only non-sociologist) and Salancik presented a resource-dependent theory that postulates that organizations require support from their external environment and can only survive to the extent that this support is forthcoming. Managers form coalitions to gather support in an open system of external relationships in which there are constraints that create either a munificent or scarce resource situation.
Wikipedia has an article about:
  1. Pfeffer, Jeffrey, and Christina T. Fong. "The business school ‘business’: Some lessons from the US experience." Journal of management studies 41.8 (2004): 1501-1520. Available at: