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Dr Alexandra Bristow

Profile summary

Professional biography

Alex Bristow is Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the Open University Business School. She previously worked at the Universities of Lancaster (where she completed her PhD), Surrey, and Birmingham.

Alex is Director of the OU's Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures (REEF) academic centre of excellence (the role she shares with Caroline Clarke). She is also Chair Elect of the Academy of Management Critical Management Studies (CMS) Division, Associate Editor of Management Learning,  Co-Founder of CMS InTouch, and Co-Founder of the Critical Careers Network (CCN).

Research interests

Alex's research takes a critical approach to management, work, and organisation. She is particularly interested in:

  • complexity, including tensions, contradictions, dialectics, and paradoxes
  • political aspects of organisation, organising, and leadership, and their relationship with other organisational issues (change, identity, inclusion, knowledge, learning, expertise, technology)
  • careers and, in particular, both doing and researching careers differently
  • innovative approaches to research and writing

Alex has published widely in high-quality international journals, including Academy of Management Learning and Education, Ephemera, Human Relations, LeadershipManagement LearningOrganization, and Organization Studies. She is Co-Editor of the book Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (2024) and contributed chapters to the edited books on The Future of Management Education (2022), The SSCI Syndrome in Higher Education (2014), and The Dark Side 2: Critical Cases on the Downside of Business (2013). Alex's PhD thesis is a winner of the Best Dissertation Award of the Academy of Management CMS Division (2011).

Alex has supervised nine Doctoral students to successful completion, with five further supervisions currently in progress. She is also actively involved in the training and development of Doctoral students and early-career academics at institutional, national, and international levels, and at the OU has completed her term as the Deputy Director of Research Degrees for the Faculty of Business and Law (2019-2022). She has contributed to the development of innovative Doctoral programmes, designed and led Doctoral training modules, and developed the FBL Teaching Scheme for PhD students. Alex is currently at full PhD supervision capacity but welcomes invitations from current PhD students and supervisors seeking an external examiner.

Teaching interests

Alex has over 20 years of Higher Education teaching experience, having taught at all levels (PhD, MBA, MSc and undergraduate, including degree apprenticeships), modes of delivery (full-time, part-time, executive, international, face-to-face, distance learning, online, work-based), and cohort sizes. She has successfully designed, validated, delivered, and led modules and programmes in a range of subject areas and levels. She has also supervised numerous postgraduate taught students (MBA and MSc) to successful completion of their dissertations.

Alex has co-authored the Research Philosophies and Approaches chapter in the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions of the Saunders et al (2015, 2019, and 2023) bestselling Research Methods for Business Students textbook (named in 2021 the World’s most influential business and economics textbook by the “FT (Financial Times) Teaching Power” league table). The three versions of the chapter are freely available on Academia.edu (see the link above) and have been viewed over 50,000 times by students and researchers around the world.

At the OU, Alex is currently contributing to the redevelopment and delivery of the MSc HRM programme. She has authored and co-authored several sections of the new module on ‘Creating evidence-based value in people management’ (B812), and is now working on re-writing sections of the HRM Dissertation module (B894). She is also contributing extensively to the FBL Doctoral Training programme, leading sessions on research philosophies, meta-theoretical aspects of research, and qualitative research methods. Previously at the OU, she has led, developed, and delivered modules on the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) programme.

Alex is also an active external examiner. She currently examines the BSc Business Management programme at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), University of London, and PGT business programmes at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow.

Impact and engagement

Alex is a co-founder of the Critical Careers Network (CCN), an international, interdisciplinary community for those interested in researching careers critically and also developing their own or others' careers differently from established mainstream norms. By 'critical' we mean questioning career performativity, functionalism, managerialism, linearity, and individualism, as well as other career norms. The purpose of CCN is to foster collaboration in critical career research and education, and to act as a forum to support career development for those who do not identify with expected career conventions. CCN is open to all academics, activists, and practitioners interested in critical approaches to careers.

Alex is also a founding editor of CMS InTouch, a global digital platform for real-time conversations on critical issues in management and organisations. CMS InTouch works in partnership with the Academy of Management CMS Division and the journal Organization to connect and support critical scholars, activists and practitioners across geographical, political, financial and other boundaries through free and open webinars and online events.

Eventbrite page to register for upcoming events

YouTube channel with recordings of past events

External collaborations

Alex is Associate Editor of Management Learning. She is currently co-editing a Special Issue of Management Learning on 'One hundred years of Paulo Freire: Rethinking critical pedagogy, management learning and education' (in production) and a Special Issue on ‘Learning to do careers differently: challenges, tensions, and possibilities’ (paper submission deadline 2nd September 2024).

She is also a member of the International Editorial Board of Organization and has co-edited the longest-running Special Paper Series of the journal on 'Populist Responses to Austerity and Cultural Change: Brexit, Trumpism and Beyond'. She is currently co-editing a Special Issue on 'Expert futures? Re-examining the role of experts and expertise in organizations and organizing’ (paper submission deadline 1st February 2024). 

Alex is also an inaugural member of the British Academy of Management Peer Review College.

Alex is an executive member of the Academy of Management Critical Management Studies Division, in the five-year Division Chair track role. As part of this track she has completed her terms as PDW Chair (2021-2022) and Scholarly Program Chair (2022-2023), and is now Division Chair Elect - a role she shares with Ghazal Mir Zulfiqar at LUMS, Pakistan.

Publications

Politicizing and humanizing management learning and education with Paulo Freire (2024-01-16)
Barros, Amon; Bristow, Alexandra; Contu, Alessia; Wanderley, Sergio and Prasad, Ajnesh
Management Learning, 55(1) (pp. 3-16)


Evidence-based Practice and the Ethics of Care: ‘What Works’ or ‘What Matters’? (2023)
Tomkins, Leah and Bristow, Alexandra
Human Relations, 76(1) (pp. 118-143)


From the archive with love: a tribute of memory and hope for the future of Organization (2023)
Bristow, Alexandra
Organization, 30(6) (pp. 1293-1303)


Paradoxes of organisational learning in policing: ‘The truth, but not the whole truth, for everyone’s sake’ (2023)
Tomkins, Leah and Bristow, Alexandra
Management Learning ((Early access))


A dialectical approach to the politics of learning in a major city police organization (2022-04-01)
Bristow, Alexandra; Tomkins, Leah and Hartley, Jean
Management Learning, 53(2) (pp. 223-248)


What was, is and will be critical about journal publishing? (2021)
Bristow, Alexandra
Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organizations, 21(4) (pp. 23-55)


Mechanisms of micro-terror? Early career CMS academics’ experiences of ‘targets and terror’ in contemporary business schools (2020-09-01)
Ratle, Olivier; Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Kerr, Ron
Management Learning, 51(4) (pp. 452-471)


Asymmetries of Leadership: Agency, Response and Reason (2020-02-01)
Tomkins, Leah; Hartley, Jean and Bristow, Alexandra
Leadership, 16(1) (pp. 87-106)


Riding Populist Storms: Brexit, Trumpism and beyond, Special Paper Series Editorial (2020)
Robinson, Sarah and Bristow, Alexandra
Organization, 27(3) (pp. 359-369)


Academic Arrhythmia: Disruption, Dissonance and Conflict in the Early-Career Rhythms of CMS Academics (2019-07-08)
Bristow, Alexandra; Robinson, Sarah and Ratle, Olivier
Academy of Management Learning and Education, 18(2) (pp. 241-260)


Brexiting CMS (2018-09-01)
Bristow, Alexandra and Robinson, Sarah
Organization, 25(5) (pp. 636-648)


Labour pains: Starting a career within the neo-liberal university (2017-11)
Robinson, Sarah; Ratle, Olivier and Bristow, Alexandra
Ephemera: theory & politics in organizations, 17(3) (pp. 481-508)


Beyond the Single Organization: Inside Insights From Gaining Access for Large Multiorganization Survey HRD Research (2017-09-15)
Saunders, Mark N. K.; Gray, David E. and Bristow, Alexandra
Human Resource Development Quarterly, 28(3) (pp. 401-425)


Being an Early-Career CMS Academic in the Context of Insecurity and ‘Excellence’: The Dialectics of Resistance and Compliance (2017)
Bristow, Alexandra; Robinson, Sarah and Ratle, Olivier
Organization Studies, 38(9) (pp. 1185-1207)


Why the epistemologies of trust researchers matter (2015)
Isaeva, Neve; Bachmann, Reinhard; Bristow, Alexandra and Saunders, Mark N.K.
Journal of Trust Research, 5(2) (pp. 153-169)


On life, death and radical critique: A non-survival guide to the Brave New Higher Education for the intellectually pregnant (2012)
Bristow, Alexandra
Scandinavian Journal of Management, 28(3) (pp. 234-241)


[Review] Organizing Words: A Critical Thesaurus for Social and Organization Studies by Yiannis Gabriel, 2008 (2009-11-01)
Bristow, Alexandra
Management Learning, 40(5) (pp. 617-621)


Fragments and Links: Organizational Actor‐World of the Harry Potter Phenomenon (2007)
Bristow, Alexandra
Culture and Organization, 13(4) (pp. 313-325)


Exit via the gift shop (2023-07-28)
Ratle, Olivier; Robinson, Sarah and Bristow, Alexandra
In: Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds. Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (pp. 417-421)
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


Understanding research philosophy and approaches to theory development (2023-03-23)
Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip; Thornhill, Adrian and Bristow, Alexandra
In: Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip and Thornhill, Adrian eds. Research Methods for Business Students (9th edition) (pp. 128-174)
ISBN : 9781292402727 | Publisher : Pearson | Published : Harlow


Introduction: Entrance hall and cloakroom (2023)
Bristow, Alexandra; Ratle, Olivier and Robinson, Sarah
In: Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds. Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (pp. 1-5)
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


I hope your journey is a long one: meandering careers (2023)
Bristow, Alexandra
In: Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds. Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (pp. 9-12)
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


In the garden of dreams: transgressive careers (2023)
Bristow, Alexandra
In: Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds. Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (pp. 237-240)
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


Haunting careers: the realm of academic ghosts (2023)
Bristow, Alexandra
In: Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds. Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (pp. 369-373)
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


Business beyond politics? A-political corporate leadership in authoritarian Russia (2023)
Solovyeva, Olga and Bristow, Alexandra
In: Knights, David; Smolovic Jones, Owain; Liu, Helena and Wilson, Suze eds. The Routledge Critical Companion to Leadership Studies
Publisher : Routledge (In Press) | Published : London


Management Education and Early Career Academics: Challenges and Opportunities (2022-04-08)
Ratle, Olivier; Bristow, Alexandra and Robinson, Sarah
In: Fellenz, Martin R.; Hoidn, Sabine and Brady, Mairead eds. The Future of Management Education. Routledge advances in management learning and education (pp. 69-85)
ISBN : 9781003095903 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Management Education and Early Career Academics: Challenges and Opportunities (2022-04-07)
Ratle, Olivier; Bristow, Alexandra and Robinson, Sarah K.
In: Fellenz, Martin; Brady, Mairead and Hoidn, Sabine eds. The Future of Management Education. Routledge Advances in Management Learning and Education
ISBN : 9780367559717 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Understanding research philosophy and approaches to theory development (2019-05)
Saunders, Mark N. K.; Bristow, Alexandra; Thornhill, Adrian and Lewis, Philip
In: Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip and Thornhill, Adrian eds. Research Methods for Business Students, 8th edition (pp. 128-171)
ISBN : 1292208783 | Publisher : Pearson Education | Published : Harlow


Understanding research philosophy and approaches to theory development (2015-07-23)
Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip; Thornhill, Adrian and Bristow, Alexandra
In: Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip and Thornhill, Adrian eds. Research Methods for Business Students (pp. 122-161)
ISBN : 1292016620 | Publisher : Pearson Education | Published : Harlow


Perishing Confucius: An Analysis of a Rupture Point in the Discourse of Taiwanese "New Higher Education" (2014)
Wu, Li-ying and Bristow, Alexandra
In: Chou, Chuing Prudence ed. The SSCI Syndrome in Higher Education: A Local or Global Phenomenon. Comparative and International Education (pp. 127-140)
ISBN : 978-94-6209-407-9 | Publisher : Sense Publishers (Springer) | Published : Rotterdam


Milk or wine come rain or shine: Culture and politics in a Dutch-Belgian banking group after an international takeover (2013-08-06)
Bristow, Alexandra
In: Fatien Diochon, Pauline; Raufflet, Emmanuel and Mills, Albert J. eds. The Dark Side 2: Critical Cases on the Downside of Business (pp. 187-196)
ISBN : 9781906093976 | Publisher : Greenleaf Publishing in association with GSE Research


Management Research (2009)
Bristow, Alexandra
In: Wankel, Charles ed. Encyclopedia of Business in Today's World
ISBN : 9781412964272 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London


Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (2023)
Robinson, Sarah; Bristow, Alexandra and Ratle, Olivier eds.
ISBN : 9781032212616 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York


Success in Challenging Times: Generating Social Capital [Summary Report] (2014-05-07)
Gray, David E.; Saunders, Mark N. K.; Bristow, Alexandra and Goregaokar, Harshita
Kingston Smith LLP


Success In Challenging Times: Generating Social Capital [Full report] (2014-05-07)
Gray, David E.; Saunders, Mark N. K.; Bristow, Alexandra and Goregaokar, Harshita
Kingston Smith LLP, London.