Excuse the Absence–and a quick word on structure

Has it really been a month since I last posted? Yikes! I am truly sorry to those who have been checking in on Mondays. I will get back to it. As some of you know, I entered a PhD program that condenses classes into an intense two-month session in Halifax. By the end of June, I felt like the intellectual version of veal. Students ahead of me warned that July is not a very productive month. Of course, to make matters even more difficult, I returned on July 2nd only to turn around and attend the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy and the USFWC annual meeting in  Baltimore on July 9.  I returned to Madison only to find that the General Manager of my co-operative took a job with another company and I was then named interim General Manager (my first official day is tomorrow).

So, it has been a busy month. I did manage to start on some of my papers, however. I am considering the research issues regarding bullying in the workplace. I’ve only scratched the surface of the extant research at this point (with another 20 or so papers to read); however, the interesting thing that I noticed is that the presence of hierarchy creates a environment that is more prone to workplace aggression. I haven’t gotten into the whys and wherefores yet, but I can see how a top-down structure encourages people to try and hold on to their place in the hierarchy by preventing others from moving up. Added to that is the overall culture of investor corporations that tells people to “move up or move out”. There are lessons here for our co-operatives, of course, but we should also be wary of simply saying “hierarchy bad, collectivism good”.  Hierarchy exists in two forms: formal and informal. It is relatively easy to dismantle the formal hierarchy, but the informal one can persist and will resist attempts to quash it. Part of this is cultural in that we have borrowed the idea of seniority from the labor movement as an unbiased means of distinguishing between people and part of it is social as we form friendships and relationships that might be risked if we challenge one another or stray to far from the organizational comfort zone in decision making.

No big conclusions today, just a few thoughts for folks to mull over. I am back and will continue on my Monday routine. See you all next week (if not sooner)!

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University and hopes to finish his Ph.D. in Business Administration soon. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle and Mission Circle for Sociocracy for All. He teaches on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College.
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