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Identities in conflict: decision-making and control in employee-owned and controlled organisations

By Juliette Summers


While the literature provides numerous and often competing rationales for the introduction of employee ownership and control, a common theme is one of greater organisational harmony, brought about through the establishment of common worker and management goals. However, evidence suggests that this harmonisation assumption is over simplistic and that conflict is apparent in employee owned and controlled organisations. This contradictory evidence arises since the harmonisation thesis ignores both the wider social and economic context within which organisations are situated, and also the social generation of conflict even once the unequal distribution of ownership and control is removed. The impact of social networks on decision-making, control and conflict within employee owned and controlled firms is therefore hypothesised to be more significant than in conventionally organised enterprises.\ud \ud The conceptual framework on which this study is based contends that identities at work are formed by and embedded within social network relations. Therefore, a contextualised social network methodology is applied to the study of identity alteration processes in employee owned and controlled organisations. In order to ensure access to those aspects of network relations that exist beyond the surface observable event, a qualitative participative method was adopted.\ud \ud In case study one, NurseryCo - a small childcare ESOP conversion - it was found that, while the function of the ESOP was presented as a mechanism to secure the harmonisation of working relations, employee ownership and control itself gave rise to a number of conflicts.\ud \ud In the second case study, BusCo - a large bus transport ESOP conversion - the issues of harmonisation and conflict are dealt with through the examination of the collective identity transformations of the management and union collective bargaining groups

Topics: HD28, HD
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