Expertise is a key currency in today’s knowledge economy. Yet as experts increasingly move across work contexts, how expertise translates across contexts is less well understood. Here, we examine how a shift in context—which reorders the relative attention experts pay to distinct types of audiences—redefines what it means to be an expert. Our study’s setting is an established expertise in the creative industry: puppet manipulation. Through an examination of U.S. puppeteers’ move from stage to screen (i.e., film and television), we show that, although the two settings call on mostly similar techniques, puppeteers on stage ground their claims to expertise in a dialogue with spectators and view expertise as achieving believability; by contrast, puppeteers on screen invoke the need to deliver on cue when dealing with producers, directors, and co-workers and view expertise as achieving task mastery. When moving between stage and screen, puppeteers therefore prioritize the needs of certain audiences over others’ and gradually reshape their own views of expertise. Our findings embed the nature of expertise in experts’ ordering of types of audiences to attend to and provide insights for explaining how expertise can shift and become co-opted by workplaces
Becoming a manager is generally seen as a highly coveted step up the career ladder that corresponds to a gain in responsibility. There is evidence, however, that some individuals experience "managerial blues" or disenchantment with their managerial jobs after being promoted. While past scholarship points to individual differences (such as skills inadequacy) or the promotion circumstances (such as involuntary) as possible explanations for such blues, less is known as to how the expectations that people carry with them from past jobs – such as expectations about what responsibility entails – may shape their first managerial experience. To answer this question, we compare the experiences of supervisors coming from different jobs – i.e., former Paris subway drivers (working independently and impacting the lives of others) and station agents (working interdependently with limited impact on others’ lives) – that left them with distinct sets of expectations around responsibility. Drawing on interviews and observations, we find that former drivers developed a deep sense of "personal" responsibility. After promotion, their perceived managerial responsibility paled in comparison to their expectations of what it felt like to have personal responsibility, leading the majority to experience managerial blues. In contrast, former agents had few expectations of what responsibility entailed and reported no disenchantment once they joined the managerial ranks. Overall, we show how imprinted expectations shape people’s future managerial experiences, including their managerial blues, and discuss the implications of our findings for literatures on job mobility and job design.
A key assumption in past literature has been that human services workers become emotionally distant from their charges (such as clients or patients). Such distancing is said to protect workers from the emotionally draining aspects of the job but creates challenges to feeling and behaving compassionately. Because little is known about when and how compassion occurs under these circumstances, we conducted a multi-phased qualitative study of 119 correctional officers in the U.S. using interviews and observations. Officers’ accounts and our observations of their interactions with inmates included cruel, disciplinary, unemotional, and compassionate treatment. Such treatment varied by the situations that officers faced, and compassion was surprisingly common when inmates were misbehaving—challenging current understanding of the occurrence of compassion at work. Examining officers’ accounts more closely, we uncovered a novel way that we theorize human services workers can be compassionate, even under such difficult circumstances. We find that officers describe engaging in practices in which they (a) relate to others by leveling group-based differences between themselves and their charges and (b) engaged in self-protection by shielding themselves from the negative emotions triggered by their charges. We posit that the combined use of such practices offsets different emotional tensions in the work, rather than only providing emotional distance, and in doing so, can foster compassionate treatment under some of the most trying situations and organizational barriers to compassion.
In the past few decades, the growth of surveillance has become a fixture of organizational life. Past scholarship has largely explained this growth as the result of traditional managerial demands for added control over workers, coupled with newly available cheap technology (such as closed-circuit televisions and body-worn cameras). We draw on the workplace resistance literature to complement these views by suggesting that workers can also drive such growth. More specifically, we show that workers under surveillance can feel constantly observed and seen, but also can feel largely unnoticed as individuals by management. This paradoxical experience leads them to interpret the surveillance as coercive and to engage in invisibility practices to attempt to go unseen and remain unnoticed. Management, in turn, interprets these attempts as justification for more surveillance, which encourages workers to engage in even more invisibility practices, thus creating a self-fulfilling cycle of coercive surveillance. Our study therefore offers one of the first endogenous explanations for the growth of surveillance while also isolating unique forms of resistance attached to such surveillance.
In this article, we examine a case of task segregation— when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job inequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers at a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. Female workers were disproportionately allocated to the pat-down task, the manual screening of travelers for prohibited items. Our findings suggest that this segregation led to overall poorer job quality outcomes for women. Task segregation overexposed female workers to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain, giving rise to work intensity, emotional exhaustion, and lack of coping resources. Task segregation also disproportionately exposed female workers to managerial sanctions for taking recuperative time off and a narrowing of their skill set that may have contributed to worse promotion chances, pay, satisfaction, and turnover rates for women. We conclude with a theoretical model of how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.
Management and organizational scholarship is overdue for a reappraisal of occupations and professions as well as a critical review of past and current work on the topic. Indeed, the field has largely failed to keep pace with the rising salience of occupational and professional—as opposed to organizational—dynamics in work life. Moreover, not only is there a dearth of studies that explicitly take occupational or professional categories into account, but there is also an absence of a shared analytical framework for understanding what occupations and professions entail. Our goal is therefore two-fold: first, to offer guidance to scholars less familiar with this terrain who encounter occupational or professional dynamics in their own inquiries and, second, to introduce a three-part framework for conceptualizing occupations and professions to help guide future inquiries. We suggest that occupations and professions can be understood through lenses of “becoming,” “doing,” and “relating.” We develop this framework as we review past literature and discuss the implications of each approach for future research and, more broadly, for the field of management and organizational theory.
Business schools offer a unique window into the making of corporate morals since they bring together future executives at formative moments in their professional lives. And business school faculty members play a crucial role in shaping these morals. This article relies on an analysis of faculty members’ teaching tasks at the Harvard Business School to better understand the making of corporate morals. More specifically, it builds on a coding of teaching notes used by faculty members in the first-year MBA curriculum to highlight the importance of silence in promoting a culture of moral relativism. Indeed, while notes heavily script faculty members’ teaching tasks and cast business decisions as matters of individual choice, they also remain silent on the moral compass that might guide these choices; allowing for moral relativism to prevail. Put otherwise, faculty’s teaching tasks are structured to promote moral silence or refrain from passing judgment on any given moral viewpoints. In doing so, a form of moral pluralism or relativism is promoted. The ideology of silence that guides and gets reflected in faculty’s teaching tasks, constitutes, I argue, a powerful ideology—one allowing multiple viewpoints to flourish and also protecting (future) business leaders from critical assessment. An ideology of silence implicitly primes business leaders not to vilify any moral stand, but also justifies almost all stands. This structuring of faculty members’ teaching tasks proves extremely consequential. In this context, almost anything can now be labeled “moral” and thus nothing can be deemed “immoral.”
Multiple forces that shape the identities of adolescents and young adults also influence their subsequent career choices. Early work experiences are key among these forces. Recognizing this, youth service programs have emerged worldwide with the hope of shaping participants’ future trajectories through boosting engagement in civically oriented activities and work. Despite these goals, past research on these programs’ impact has yielded mixed outcomes. Our goal is to understand why this might be the case. We rely on interview, archival, and longitudinal survey data to examine young adults’ experiences of a European youth service program. A core feature of youth service programs, namely their dual identity of helping others (i.e., service beneficiaries) and helping oneself (i.e., participants), might partly explain the program's mixed outcomes. We find that participants focus on one of the organization’s identities largely to the exclusion of the other, creating a dynamic in which their interactions with members who focus on the other identity create challenges and dominate their program experience, to the detriment of a focus on the organization and its goals. This suggests that a previously overlooked feature of youth service programs (i.e., their dual identity) might prove both a blessing for attracting many diverse members and a curse for achieving desired outcomes. More broadly, our results suggest that dual identity organizations might attract members focused on a select identity, but fail to imbue them with a blended identity; thus, limiting the extent to which such organizations can truly “redirect” future career choices.
The extensive literature on organizational wrongdoing tends to assume that a clear red line divides the moral terrain. However, many organizations function not as moral orders, but as moral pursuits in which there is intentionally no explicit definition of right and wrong; members are encouraged to engage in an ongoing pursuit of personal morality. We use illustrations from field sites in which red lines proved either well-defined or elusive to theorize differences in forms of wrongdoing in moral orders versus moral pursuits. More specifically, we explore cases in which organizational actors seek to (re)define right and wrong and to pursue actions that they consider moral, but that others in their setting consider wrongdoing. We identify two sets of misaligned moral strategies: one involving moral hijacking, moral assembling, and moral blurring that occurs when individuals engage in a moral pursuit from within the context of a moral order; and another involving moral circumscribing, moral spotlighting, and moral seceding that occurs when individuals seek to establish a moral order from within a moral pursuit. We develop this typology to highlight the importance of context in defining wrongdoing, and to better understand the variety of wrongdoing in organizations.