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Tag Archives: work

hrmgrIt is not surprising that work organizations want to become more socially diverse.  Google, whose workforce of 48,600 is 30% female and whose top-ranking managers are 8% female, just announced sweeping plans to improve diversity at the company. How can they successfully accomplish this given the challenges of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce? And once they achieve a diverse work group, how can they handle the challenges of managing this diversity?

I recently came across two articles that draw on very different settings that help answer these two questions. The first was featured in a WSJ article, co-authored by management scholars David R. Heckman, Wei Yang, and Maw Der Foo. The second was co-authored by sociology PhD student, Brad R. Fulton and fellow sociologists, Ruth Braunstein and Richard L. Wood, in the journal American Sociological Review .

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by Mike Rose

A high school senior, Carlos is already a promising carpenter. He is volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity site, assembling the frames for the bedroom walls, the boards for one frame laid out neatly in front of him. He measures the distance between them. Measures again. Then he drives one nail, then another, stopping occasionally to check with his eye or a framing square the trueness of the frame. I ask Carlos about this precision. He says that when the frame is finished, “I know it’s going to be straight and well done.” He pauses and adds: “That’s the way I am.”

In the midst of this campaign season’s speeches about the economy and job creation, we should stop and think about the personal meaning of work and whether we are providing enough opportunities for young people to discover that meaning for themselves. This is especially true for the many members of the younger generation who are planning to enter the workforce right out of high school or after attending community college.

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Chris Warhurst raises a number of issues that warrant careful attention. One stems from the still-considerable boundary between UK and US sociology – trends “over there” don’t map on to what’s happening in the USA (to the detriment of both sides, I might add). A second and related issue concerns the fate of the sociology of work and employment –empirically rich and ascendant, relative to economics? Or in the doldrums and losing its audience? A third is the jurisdictional struggle between culturally attuned areas of study (cultural studies, gender studies) on the one hand, and more structurally oriented approaches toward the “hidden abode.” Let me comment on these in turn.

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Chris Warhurst takes the 2007-08 financial crisis as a point of departure to ask some important questions. What is the future of the sociology of work? Is there still a place—indeed a need—for those “ethnographic monographs on work and employment” that have long been the backbone of the field?   It was so disheartening to read that new introductory textbooks subsume work within chapters on tourism and sport; while there is “little teaching of the sociology of work and employment in Australia’s top universities.” Yet I don’t think that the problem lies where Warhurst suggests it does, with a dearth of trading floor ethnographies. What we’re confronting is a deeper crisis, what I’ll call a decoupling of work from profits. It is the real culprit behind the marginalization of the sociology of work, and it derives from the financialization of the economy.

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WEB+GM+logo+and+ignition+switchIn recent months, General Motors has received scathing critique for its handling of a design flaw affecting multiple Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn models produced over several years.  At issue is a faulty ignition switch that, if jostled, cuts power to the engine, deactivating airbags and other features of affected vehicles.  The problem was brought to light by Florida engineer Mark Hood, who discovered that newer ignitions with the same part number differed from the original design and required significantly more force to turn.

Subsequent investigation has determined that G.M. approved a new ignition switch design in 2006 and quietly implemented it without recalling vehicles subject to ignition failure.  Inquiries by a federal agency, Congress and the media have revealed that G.M. has been aware of problems with the switch design for more than a decade but hid them from outsiders.  The company now admits it has known about the problem since 2001, has acknowledged at least thirteen deaths related to the flaw, and has recalled millions of vehicles.

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by Noelle Chesley

Mobile-on-a-Boat-Ride

Credit: LexnGer (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0)

As technology has become an inescapable part of most workplaces, it has become ever more important to understand its impact on employees. Using data from two surveys of U.S. workers, Noelle Chesley examines the effects of both personal and job-related technology use. She finds that increased technology use, especially when it extends work into personal life, is linked with higher levels of worker distress. However, it is also associated with gains in productivity, and personal technology use at work may help employees to manage work-related stress.

 

 

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