When frontline employees speak up candidly, organizations become more effective. Because such employees are often in direct contact with customers and production processes, they tend to encounter important issues and develop valuable ideas and opinions that can help correct for problems on the horizon. Therefore, when employees freely express their thoughts, organizations benefit by being able to quickly spot errors or mistakes, as well as innovate products and systems.
The problem, however, is that employees frequently fail to speak up or voice their concerns in the workplace. Consequently, problems fail to be escalated in a timely manner to leaders in upper management who can act on them. Often, workplace issues linger for a frustratingly long time, even when everyone on the frontlines knows about them. This becomes evident across a range of domains—from safety concerns with products or equipment to cases of sexual harassment.
Why don’t people speak up about workplace issues that are obvious to everyone around?
Many view the Internet as the ultimate labor market tool. By massively expanding information about job openings (through job posting sites like Monster.com) and job seekers (through social media sites like LinkedIn), the internet has reduced the information boundedness problem that plagued earlier labor markets.
But greater exposure to information on both sides of the labor market is insufficient for an expanded opportunity. In fact, it could lead to greater segmentation of the workforce.
To learn more about how the internet has transformed the
market for labor, we interviewed 61 HR professionals in two southern metro
areas in the US. We asked them to explain how they used the internet for
posting jobs, recruiting workers, and reviewing job applicants. The results
revealed two very different ways in which organizational actors perceive the
online labor market.
It’s a puzzle that social scientists have tried to solve for decades: How
can immigrants come to the United States and achieve more economic mobility
than African Americans, even when they start out with equal amounts of human,
financial, and cultural capital?
For a variety of reasons, immigrants commonly use entrepreneurship as a
The mobility prospects for immigrants in wage and salary employment can be low. Immigrants’ credentials, such as a law degree from back home, may not be formally recognized in the United States. In addition, many immigrants may not know English well, and they may experience racial or ethnic discrimination when applying for jobs.
In a hyper-mediated society, dominated by a culture of
consumption and celebrity, the need for people to produce and project their
“authentic” selves have gained new urgency. Whether on dating applications, on social
media platforms, in college applications, or in professional settings, the
crafting and presentation of “authentic” selves has become integral to today’s
Importantly, this increasing focus on crafting such selves coincides with the parallel development of what the sociologist Arlie Hochschild referred to in 2012 as the “outsourcing of self”—or the hiring of others to perform what are usually thought to be “personal” and “intimate” acts.
“Alternative financial services” (AFS), such as payday lenders, check cashers, and pawnshops, have expanded dramatically in recent decades, reshaping the American financial services landscape. In New York State, for example, the number of AFS increased from 2,428 in 1998 to 4,041 in 2015. Nationally, payday lenders are now more common than McDonald’s and Starbucks, combined—nearly one in four households will use an AFS each year.
Policymakers, inequality scholars, and advocates for the poor have long been concerned with AFS because they tend to be more expensive than “mainstream” banking. For example, using a check casher in lieu of a bank could cost tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a career. About half of people who take out payday loans end up paying more in interest and fees than the value of the initial loan, which suggests that these products can exploit economic insecurity and trap individuals in cycles of debt.
The United States struggles with a long history of racial
employment segregation. Exclusionary
hiring based on race was only banned in 1964, and enforcement only gained teeth
when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set to work in the late
1960s and early 1970s.
We know that segregation declined significantly during the
“long decade of enforcement,” through the early 1980s. Since then, though,
progress seems to have stalled. Sociologists have repeatedly studied occupational
segregation—how separated races are between different jobs—and found that it has
barely moved in more than a generation. Yet even this is too rosy a picture.
There are two broad ways to think about employment segregation. One is occupational, as already mentioned. The other might be called establishment segregation—how separated races are between different workplaces. (An establishment is an individual workplace; think a McDonald’s restaurant, not the McDonalds corporation.) On this dimension, U.S. workplaces have backslid to where they were in the mid-1970s.
Can dialogue be established
between civil society and corporations on social and environmental questions such as climate change? Our study of shareholder engagement at Ford and General Motors suggests that dialogue is
possible and socially-conscious shareholders might be able to drive
positive change in corporations on climate change.
We also show that overcoming
initial adversarial positions take years and, to use the language of Jürgen
Habermas, parties need to shift from strategic action. The strategic action is the instrumental pursuit of individual goals,
to communicative action: a form of
coordinated action where parties achieve a common definition of the
situation. Our study shows how these ideas from German philosophy help explain engagement
effectiveness, and understand current events
in corporate boardrooms.
Dialogue has become central not
only for traditional social movements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
and labor unions, but also for shareholders, who are
increasingly active on environmental, social
and governance (ESG) issue.
Children are expensive. Almost any parent will attest to
this. For 2015, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that raising a child into
adulthood cost approximately $234,000 in total for a middle-income family.
Families face many similar expenses with childrearing, which
vary over the child’s lifetime. Upon the birth of a child, there are immediate
costs. Parents must purchase food, clothes, and many other items to support
their children on a day-to-day basis. Children bring long-term costs, too, as
parents often have to save money for their children’s futures, particularly for
Although the costs of childrearing may be similar, families have very different resources available to attend to these costs. As a result, higher-income families tend to spend more on their children in absolute dollars, but lower-income families spend a greater proportion of their income on their children, often at a cost to their own financial wellbeing.
of race and scholars of organizational theory have long lamented the lack of a
structural theory of race and organizations. Acker’s classic work, which argued that
gender is a constitutive element of organizations, concluded with a series of
questions about how race shaped organizational formation and continuity.
Similarly, Nkomo called for a structural theory of
organizations that moved beyond understanding race as a simple demographic
characteristic. More recently, scholars such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Melissa Wooten have repeatedly called for a theory
that integrates the sociology of race and organizational theory.
In an article recently published in the American Sociological Review, I outline a theory of racialized organizations with the aim of bridging the sub-fields of race and organizational theory. To make my case, I draw on Sewell and Bonilla-Silva, scholars who are concerned with how social structures arise, how structures become stable, and how they constrain or enable human agency in oftentimes in taken-for-granted ways.
That women and men tend to be employed in different occupations comes as no surprise. It is both common knowledge and a basic fact that goes by the name of occupational segregation. That even if there was no occupational segregation at all, still around half of all the overall segregation between women and men would remain at two critical junctures in their lives—the career- and family-building years and retirement—is somehow more surprising.
How did we come up with this fact about segregation over the life course in our recent article? We had to consider additional sources of segregation beyond just the occupations where women and men work. For example, we know that women tend to work for pay shorter hours than men. Call this source of gender differences “time segregation” and call the joint measurement of occupational and time segregation “market segregation.”
Next move on to the elephant in the room, or what is one of the most sex-segregated and sex-typical occupation, even if unpaid: looking after home and family or “homemaking.” To be sure, besides gainful employment in the market and working full time at home, there are other stations in life. Unemployment, being a student, and retirement stand out. Call the measurement of gender differences in these stations “economic segregation.”
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility