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Douglas MacLean, Claudia Mills
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Andrew Kirby

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NRFSN number: 15868
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Many organizations are faced with unavoidable dangers that may harm employees during their regular work. However, despite organizational efforts, it is often unrealistic for employees to be responsible for avoiding all possible risk. Employees must get the job done despite the dangers they may face. In this chapter, MacLean and Mills discuss the arguments for and against a conservative view of risk taking and then argue in favor of a “bounded” notion of conservative behavior. Since society largely determines what is considered “risky,” managers need to be aware of three structural levels that control how organizations define “risk”. First, risk is defined by those who make the laws for and against taking risks on a national and state scale. Second, risk is reshaped by those who interpret the previously defined laws in order to apply them to the organization. Third, individuals and agencies that must assess organizational risk may change the bias of risk taking in favor of a more conservative approach.


MacLean D, Mills C. 1990. Conservatism, efficiency, and the value of life. In: Kirby A, ed. Nothing to fear: risks and hazards in American society. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press: p. 53-74.

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