• Samantha Peters

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The purpose of this thesis is to understand how altruism is shaped by organisational contexts and conditions. It takes the form of an in-depth case study of a hospital criticised in national inquiries for a lack of kindness and compassion towards patients. The literature indicated that altruism inside organisations would be affected by an organisation’s internal relationships, cultural fabric, and activity architecture, as well as its members’ personal helping resources and their behavioural practices. However, there was a significant gap in the literature for a model of how organisational contexts undermine altruism and encourage practices which inhibit it.

The findings from this study indicate that an organisational context will be unconducive to altruism when its emotional terrain is noisy, its culture or climate is threatening or uncertain, its relationships are characterised by friction, its users are diminished or denigrated and the balance between their helping needs and organisational helping resources is misaligned. Such factors can reduce organisational agents’ personal resources with which to help users. In this case, four un-altruistic practices emerged out of such a context and the organisational conditions within it. These were agents’ inattentiveness or indifference towards users, their avoidance of users, or their more active deterrence of users from seeking help. Combined, this reduced the extent to which organisational agents noticed, appreciated or assessed organisational users’ welfare or need for help. Such practices are likely to distort professional practice and undermine good patient care as well as inhibit altruism.

The study contributes a new model to the literature setting out how these unconducive organisational conditions, reduced agent helping resources and un-altruistic practices might combine to erode the internal perception of user need and inhibit altruism. Further research is needed to test the validity of the proposed model and confirm the un-altruistic practices nested within it.
Date of Award8 Sept 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorYiannis Gabriel (Supervisor) & Andrea Herepath (Supervisor)


  • Altruism
  • Kindness
  • organisation studies
  • organisational behaviour
  • Compassion
  • organisational culture

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