The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about work. The figure of the essential worker, for example, has keenly illuminated how categories such as race, gender, education, and (dis)ability shape and maintain our work opportunities and burdens. Similarly, and through what many have called “the great resignation,” we’ve observed that more than a few US workers are reimagining the relationship between formal wage labor and their physical and emotional well-being. Workers are inviting us to learn (more) about how work and money—in a neoliberal and hypercapitalist economy—do and don’t align with states of flourishing.
In recent years, studies on the financialisation of society – the rising impact of financial institutions and motives over the decisions and strategies of individuals and non-financial corporations – have been increasing.
Sociologists of work have been particularly concerned about the shareholder value orientation-labour process nexus. The main argument here is that shareholder pressures have been inducing the managers of non-financial firms to borrow and buy back their own company’s shares to maximise dividends. Then these rising financial payments lead to direct reductions in wages and the extensive use of casualised workers to improve the firm’s balance sheets. Yet, the relationship between the financialisation of households in the form of personal indebtedness and their behaviour at the workplace has been a largely unexplored area.
The “one percent” are increasingly seen as an important point of debate in discussions on rising inequalities. But how do top income earners themselves perceive their income? Do they view top incomes as fair?
To answer this question, I conducted a study where I interviewed people in the United Kingdom with incomes that place them within the top one percent of the distribution. Most of the 30 top income earners I talked to were men, lived in London and worked in the financial industry. They worked in firms such as investment banks, hedge funds, and barristers’ chambers.
I found that the cultural process of performance pay is important for how top income earners perceive inequality.
The world is facing several grand challenges. One only need look at the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to see that, in our global society, critical barriers stand in the way of important global advancement. Climate change, societal aging, natural resource management, gender inequality, and health and well-being are some of the most important grand challenges of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most salient, since it remains a “seemingly intractable” puzzle that does not offer straightforward solutions.
Addressing grand challenges requires coordinated and collaborative action toward a clearly articulated problem and goal, each calling for its own specific approach. Societal leaders need to be able to mobilize a variety of stakeholders and coordinate their efforts to secure a common goal that none could obtain without the efforts of one another. But are certain types of leaders naturally better positioned than others to successfully resolve these complex crises?
During the crushing first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was hardly a store window or a street corner in America without a homemade sign thanking frontline workers. But these tributes weren’t just for the doctors, nurses, firefighters, and paramedics who risked their very lives to care for patients – occupations we typically think of as noble and sacrificial.
Suddenly, service workers who had long been invisible in the eyes of many consumers were being hailed as heroes for doing everyday tasks at a time when merely stepping outside of the house carried a risk of contracting the virus. Grocery store workers, surrogate shoppers, food deliverers, and other customer service employees who typically earn among the lowest wages found themselves held in the highest regard.
We believe the most interesting qualitative research is out there if you know where to look, and we didn’t have to look far beyond our neighborhoods to see that all the (literal!) signs of gratitude were pointing us in the direction of our next research topic. What happens when jobs are suddenly and unexpectedly moralized? How do workers react to their own jobs when the public narrative shifts in their favor? Do they see themselves as heroes worthy of such admiration, or do they reject the label and go on about their day?
It is highly likely that your parents, or grandparents, depending on your age, worked full-time for the same employer for many years, even a lifetime. They accumulated job tenure, had regular working schedules, and their employer directed the work they did at the place of business.
This standard employment relationship (SER) model is defined by stability and continuity. Yet, recent decades have witnessed gradual transformations in work arrangements and employment contracts due to economic, technological, and globalization changes.
One of the most notable transformations is the proliferation of precarious work, a departure from the model of stable and secure employment with benefits. Precarious workers lack employment stability, they change jobs, and move in and out of the labor market. When they work, it is likely in part-time and temporary jobs that do not provide social benefits and statutory protections.
According to a nationally representative survey conducted in June 2022 by the Census Bureau and analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control, some 19% of adults in the United States who have contracted Covid-19 experience some form of Long Covid, equivalent to some 7.5% of the U.S. adult population.
Yet in spite of mounting scientific, epidemiological, and clinical evidence of Long Covid’s effect, and the recognition of Long Covid by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Long Covid patients continue to face various forms of denialism and accusations that Long Covid does not exit. Patients have worked hard to translate their experiences into types of knowledge that are legible to scientists and policymakers, such as studies from the Patient-Led Research Collaborative.
For the past two years, our research team at the Covid-19 and Trust in Science Project (CATS) at the Trust Collaboratory at Columbia University have studied the experiences of Long Covid sufferers. In a recent study published in SSM-Qualitative Research in Health, we report findings from our Fall 2021 survey of social media users who self-identify as individuals with Long Covid in the United States.
It seems as if every day a new rating comes out to assess organizations on some measure of performance. The thought is that by providing greater transparency and accountability, ratings will motivate these organizations to improve certain behaviors to obtain the praise of a positive rating and avoid the shame of a poor rating.
In most cases, this makes sense: a highly-rated hospital should be more appealing to patients than one with poor ratings, a highly-rated university should attract more applicants, and a highly-rated restaurant should garner more local interest. But what about ratings where the attributes being measured may be seen as less desirable by some stakeholders?
In today’s divisive society, it seems ever so timely to consider how companies respond to ratings on potentially polarizing issues. While we know that ratings are effective in shaping organizational behavior, most studies have examined widely valued issues such as reduced toxic emissions or the health and safety of nursing homes. What we don’t know is how companies react when the behavior being rated is more controversial.
Can employers and unions use the same term to describe a workplace conflict and still disagree about the actual meaning of this term? Although it might sound counterintuitive, this is what happens to workplace bullying in the Brazilian banking sector. Those different interpretations of workplace bullying are a consequence of how unions and employers understand labor relations and influence how unions and employers respond to bullying in the workplace.
Workplace bullying: single or multiple definitions?
Defining workplace bullying should not be a difficult task. Despite the different terms used in different parts of the world, such as workplace bullying, mobbing, or “moral” harassment, academics have for a long time agreed to define it as “the systematic display of aggressive behavior and social exclusion at work directed towards a subordinate, a co-worker or even a superior, as well as the perception of being systematically exposed to such mistreatment while at work.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) and other recent technologies that substitute human expertise are growing and increasingly diffused. In such an era, how can professional knowledge workers cope with their uncertain future?
In a recent study, I found a new mode of viewing the future as one of their coping strategies against advancing digitalization. Instead of searching for a “right” future projection, some professionals are increasingly accepting the future of professions as ever-changing and actively incorporating recent technologies to transform their work.