Defining Employee Ownership: Four Meanings and Two Models (Working Paper #3) - CLEO Skip to main content


The field of broad-based employee ownership within corporations is a specific application of the foundational topic of property ownership. It is situated at the intersection of a broad range of scholarly disciplines including economics, law, finance and management. Each discipline contributes vocabulary and distinctions describing this field. That broad spectrum of disciplinary inquiry is a strength but it also lends a “ships passing in the night” quality to discussions of employee ownership. This paper attempts to unravel the narrative diversity surrounding this topic. Four meanings of ownership are introduced. Those meanings are embedded within two abstract models of the corporation: the corporation as property and the corporation as social institution.

This paper is part of the Working Paper Series of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations.