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Beyond the Company Line: Studying Workplace Inequalities Ethnographically

Lauren A. Rivera (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA)

Ethnographies of Work

ISBN: 978-1-83753-949-9, eISBN: 978-1-83753-948-2

Publication date: 12 December 2023


While scholars have demonstrated persistent demographic inequalities in hiring, performance evaluations, and compensation decisions, many of the mechanisms driving these effects remain less clear. Qualitative research methods, including ethnographic approaches, are uniquely poised to fill this gap because they can illuminate how workplace inequalities are produced and reproduced on the ground. But studying workplace inequalities qualitatively also poses specific methodological challenges and considerations. In this essay, I discuss common issues researchers face when studying workplace inequalities ethnographically, including barriers in gaining access to sensitive organizational processes, building sufficient trust and rapport to move beyond official narratives of organizational practice (‘the company line’), and managing the emotional and psychological burden of discovering what lies beyond that line. I discuss potential strategies for navigating these challenges.



Rivera, L.A. (2023), "Beyond the Company Line: Studying Workplace Inequalities Ethnographically", Delbridge, R., Helfen, M., Pekarek, A. and Purser, G. (Ed.) Ethnographies of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 183-195.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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