Many questions on this exchange address situations in the workplace. Workplace experience successfully handling tough situations at work qualifies a person as expert. This form of expertise seems constantly at odds with the form of expertise derived from the theorectical constructs taught by consultants and buisness schools who teach formal theory.

Though waving managerial theory around in a workplace is not very smart because it may offend seasoned workers, using theory as a means to rationalize how to handle many workplace issues has merit.

On this exchange, many answers getting up-voted often fit sound managerial theory.

When theory is pointed out, or if a question is asked regarding the managerial theory of tough workplace situations is asked on this exchange, it seems not to go over well and in some cases even offend.

Managerial theory's biggest issue is it dehumanizes people. Dehumanizing anyone is never a good answer.

Dehumanizing is already common by necessity on this site. I felt dehumanized when a question I asked regarding theory was closed. To the person seeking acceptance as an expert, the dehumanizing act may have seemed to come from me when I brought up theory. Theory, in my mind, complements expertise. It does not replace or subordinate it. Not everyone feels as I do so hopefully someone may have a fresh, much different perspective.

If exchange answers were truly one question to one answer then leaving out theory would be an obvious choice. This is not exactly the case on this exchange. People with a similar, but not the exact same, question have much more to gain by understanding a theoretical framework on which the original answer to the question was based. From this framework, this person could derive their own answer.

So the question remains. On this exchange are theoretical frameworks for handling workplace situations best avoided -- as is common in the actual workplace because of its dehumanizing affect -- or are questions and comments involving the theory of handling workplace situations appropriate?

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    I think example questions would be helpful - the biggest problem I've seen from these sorts of questions is that they tend to be way too broad and general to be answerable outside a dissertation.
    – enderland
    Feb 28, 2016 at 1:31
  • As an example I posted a question, which is now closed, about two person drama. The answer was weird. Why would experts on drama create drama on a question about drama in direct opposition to correct advice just given to ignore drama. Drama is certainly something this exchange does not need. I want to break the triangle formed in this exchange by enlighting as opposed to participating in the triangle. Fundamentally, I may have opened a can of worms best left closed with karpman drama theory. I have not been on this exchange long enough to know the consensus on managerial theory.
    – LongThrow
    Feb 28, 2016 at 2:31
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    related (possibly a duplicate): What should we do with questions about personal dilemmas with no right answer?
    – gnat
    Feb 28, 2016 at 9:07
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    @gnat how is that anywhere near a dupe? That's the personal-advice question; this appears to be a question about formal management theory. (I say "appears to be" because this question is a little unclear to me; examples would help. But I don't see any connection to the question you linked.) Feb 28, 2016 at 21:57
  • @MonicaCellio I'll be happy if it's not a dupe. As long as "handling tough workplace situations" really doesn't have any connection with "personal dilemmas with no right answer" I would welcome questions about this
    – gnat
    Mar 1, 2016 at 13:29
  • Reworded this question could read: Should theory surrounding personal dilemmas be brought up? When I get some time I may try to add a neutral example.
    – LongThrow
    Mar 1, 2016 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


Discussion of managerial theory strikes me as a bit tangential for Workplace unless it is being applied to specifics, as @dragoon1228 said. It bears the same relationship to our topic as math does to physics or physics to electronics... and note that those are separate discussions on SE.

If you can use theory to help elucidate why an answer is especially limited or especially general, great. But discussion of this set of theories in abstract feels awfully like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. (In theory as many as want to; in practice as many as will fit.)

And one of the questions was shot down because it had a basic conflict with normal use of the same word, and the question was nearly incomprehensible if you hadn't already "drunk the koolaid" and accepted that very specific bit of jargon from a very specific set of theory. Most postings here are going to be in English, not managerese; you can assume that all words have their colloquial rather than theoretical/jargon meanings unless explicitly stated otherwise.

  • I'm confused again. If the math is wrong on a physics question, or if the physics is wrong on an electronics question then those questions get downvoted. The downvote is typically reversed when the theory is corrected. Also, experts are highly specific with language. For example, if a physicist thinks divergence is a difference of opinion or if an electronics specialist thinks a phasor is from Star Trek then their opinions instantly cease being held in high regard.
    – LongThrow
    Mar 4, 2016 at 19:13
  • If you are focused on a physics question, then of course you can use math to discuss it. If you start discussing pure math in a physics area, it will be ruled offtopic; the general is not approved even though the specific is. Re language: that is precisely the problem; you responded to a word by assuming we were using the other meaning, and you can't expect this crowd to be familiar with or to discuss everything in terms oif your model. Which is part of why I think that while you have a valid discussion topic, this isn't the place for it.
    – keshlam
    Mar 4, 2016 at 22:12
  • +1 @keshlam I finally see your point of view... Defining the lines between which definition goes with which discipline can sometimes be quite subjective, so at some point it is necessary to forgo ones own opinion and simply go with the flow.
    – LongThrow
    Mar 5, 2016 at 1:46

After reading through several of the other posts I may have come across the answer.

Theory, while very useful confronting "agony aunt" questions and possibly individuals who have built their reputation on this type of question, it has one issue.

On the don't ask page (which I came across after considerable digging) https://workplace.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask, This comment was made regarding bad questions.

You are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

Theory by nature is open ended and hypothetical. Managerial theory is very faddish in nature so if the question is several years old, the theory may be out-of-date. If using theory in asking, commenting, or answering questions it may be a best practice to:

  1. Keep the discussion short.
  2. Link to a website describing the theory.
  3. Point out a discussion criticizing the theory is unwanted.

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