Emerging Conceptions of Work, Management and the Labor Market: Volume 30

Cover of Emerging Conceptions of Work, Management and the Labor Market

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(10 chapters)


Pages i-xviii
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The rapid growth of online social networking sites (“SNS”) such as LinkedIn and Facebook has created new forms of online labor market intermediation that are reconfiguring the hiring process in profound ways; yet, little is understood about the implications of these new technologies for job seekers navigating the labor market, or more broadly, for the careers and lives of workers. The existing literature has focused on digital inequality – workers’ unequal access to or skilled use of digital technologies – but has left unanswered critical questions about the emerging and broad effects of SNS as a labor market intermediary. Drawing on in-depth interviews with unemployed workers this paper describes job seekers’ experiences using SNS to look for work. The findings suggest that SNS intermediation of the labor market has two kinds of effects. First, as an intermediary for hiring, SNS produces labor market winners and losers involving filtering processes that often have little to do with evaluations of merit. Second, SNS filtering processes exert new pressures on all workers, whether winners or losers as perceived though this new filter, to manage their careers, and to some extent their private lives, in particular ways that fit the logic of the SNS-mediated labor market.


The literature on precarious and insecure work rarely examines how workers with jobs in large bureaucratic firms experience insecurity. Current theories suggest two approaches. First, workers might focus on their individual occupation and detach their commitment from firms that no longer reciprocate long-term commitments. Second, employees might respond with increased organizational commitment because leaving an employer creates risks of uncertainty. Based on in-depth interviews with 22 financial services professionals, this paper refines our understanding of when workers focus on intra-organizational career development. This happens when large firms offer opportunities for advancement and foster loyalty. I develop the terms spiral staircase and serial monogamy career. A spiral staircase career results when workers take entrepreneurial approaches to advancement that include lateral job changes and vertical promotions within a firm. When the local labor market has multiple firms in their sector, career advancement may take an intermediate form, in which workers spend medium-to-long-term stints with multiple organizations. I call this the serial monogamy career. My research shows how sector characteristics and geography can impact worker commitment and mobility in insecure environments.


This study addresses the debate regarding employee discretion and neo-normative forms of control within interactive service work. Discretion is central to core and long-standing debates within the sociology of work and organizations such as skill, control and job quality. Yet, despite this, the concept of discretion remains underdeveloped. We contend that changes in the nature of work, specifically in the context of interactive service work, require us to revisit classical theorizations of discretion. The paper elaborates the concept of value discretion; defined as the scope for employees to interpret the meaning of the espoused values of their organization. We illustrate how value discretion provides a foundational basis for further forms of task discretion within a customized service call-centre. The study explores the link between neo-normative forms of control and the labour process by elaborating the concept of value discretion to provide new insights into the relationship between managerial control and employee agency within contemporary service labour processes.


Originally developed by the Japanese firm Toyota in the 1950s, the core innovation of lean production is to reorient all organizational activity around continuous improvement and the elimination of waste. We use the case of lean production in two healthcare organizations to explore the process of translating management models into new environments (Czarniawska & Sevón, 1996; Mohr, 1998). We draw on insights from organizational sociology and social movement theory to understand the strategies of actors as they attempt to overcome opposition to model transfer (Battilana, Leca, & Boxenbaum, 2009; Friedland & Alford, 1991; Snow, Rochford, Worden, & Benford, 1986). We examine two attempts to export lean production to healthcare organizations: Riverside Hospital, a research and teaching institution, and Lakeview Associations, a managed health provider. We use these cases to illustrate two ways that management models can get lost in the process of institutional translation: model attenuation, and model decoupling.


This article examines how a profit-centered restructuring of labor relations in an academic medical center undermined team-based care practices in its intensive care unit. The Institute of Medicine has promoted team-based care to improve patient outcomes, and the staff in the intensive care unit researched for this paper had established a set of practices they defined as teamwork. After hospital executives rolled out a public relations campaign to promote its culture of teamwork, they restructured its workforce to enhance numerical and functional flexibility in three key ways: implementing a “service line” managerial structure; cutting a range of staff positions while combining others; and doubling the capacity of its profitable and highly regarded intensive care unit. Hospital executives said the restructuring was necessitated by changes to payment models brought forth by the Affordable Care Act. Based on 300 hours of participant-observation and 35 interviews with hospital staff, findings show that the restructuring lowered staff resources and intensified work, which limited their ability to practice care they defined as teamwork and undermined the unit’s collective identity as a team. Findings also show how staff members used teamwork as a sensitizing concept to make sense of what they did at work. The meanings attached to teamwork were anchored to positions in the hospitals’ organizational hierarchy. This paper advances our understanding of he flexible work arrangements in the health care industry and their effects on workers.


This paper tests whether employers responded particularly negatively to African American job applicants during the deep U.S. recession that began in 2007. Theories of labor queuing and social closure posit that members of privileged groups will act to minimize labor market competition in times of economic turbulence, which could advantage Whites relative to African Americans. Although social closure should be weakest in the less desirable, low-wage job market, it may extend downward during recessions, pushing minority groups further down the labor queue and exacerbating racial inequalities in hiring. We consider two complementary data sources: (1) a field experiment with a randomized block design and (2) the nationally representative NLSY97 sample. Contrary to expectations, both analyses reveal a comparable recession-based decline in job prospects for White and African American male applicants, implying that hiring managers did not adapt new forms of social closure and demonstrating the durability of inequality even in times of structural change. Despite this proportionate drop, however, the recession left African Americans in an extremely disadvantaged position. Whites during the recession obtained favorable responses from employers at rates similar to African Americans prior to the recession. The combination of experimental methods and nationally representative longitudinal data yields strong evidence on how race and recession affect job prospects in the low-wage labor market.


In this study, I explore the link between workforce downsizing and the predominance of a corporate governance model that espouses a shareholder value maximization principle. Specifically, I examine how top managers’ shareholder value orientation affects the adoption of a downsizing strategy among large, publicly traded corporations in the United States. An analysis of CEOs’ letters to shareholders indicates that firms with CEOs who use language that espouses the shareholder value principle tend to have a higher rate of layoffs, after controlling for various indicators of the firm’s adherence to the shareholder value principle. The finding suggests that corporate governance models, particularly those advocated by powerful organizational elites, have a significant impact on workers by shaping corporate strategies toward the workforce. The key actors in this process were top managers who embraced the new management ideology and implemented corporate strategy to pursue shareholder value maximization.


Pages 221-224
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Cover of Emerging Conceptions of Work, Management and the Labor Market
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Research in the Sociology of Work
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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