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Since the 1980s, corporate organizations around the world have been adopting and installing programs of organizational restructuring and workplace re-engineering. Most of the programs are based on the principles and practices of a widely popular management strategy often called Total Quality Management, participative management or "the learning organization," or some other vernacular title for a program of organizational structural and cultural change. Notwithstanding numerous variations in different corporate organizational and national settings, most organizational change programs share the common fundamental aims of the reorganization of the workplace and the production of new sets of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior among corporate employees to enable increased productivity and profitability for the organization. The research literature variously discussing matters of organizational culture and organizational change is now extensive (e.g., Bate, 1994; Deming, 1986; Drucker, 1993; Frost, 1991; Garvin, 1988; Graves, 1986; Handy, 1985; Kanter, 1989, 1992; Kotter & Heskett, 1992; Kunda, 1992; Marceau, 1992; Martin, 1992; Schein, 1992; Senge, 1990).
Pivotal among the new organizational cultural practices and values are the metaphors of "team" and "family." Many companies, from manufacturing operations and supermarket chains, to hospitals and airline companies, promote themselves in the marketplace and to employees as caring, familial communities, inviting both employees and customers to "Come, join our family" through their involvement with the company. At first glance, such an invitation may seem a timely and welcome recognition of relational and affective dimensions of human life that "ought" to be promoted in workplaces historically ridden with industrial conflicts and divisions. Furthermore, team evokes references to cooperation and sharing of skill and labor toward the attainment of shared goals. Both family and team, are, in normative conditions, positive and generative social practices. Therefore, their deliberate installation as part of the new organizational culture fundamentally assumes their reasonable incontestability and universal attractiveness. However, a deeper look at the new organizational cultural practices of team and family reveals complex discordant and unintended outcomes from their installation.
The extant literature on teams, work groups, and work re-organization (e.g., Cole, 1989; Cutcher-Gurshenfeld et al., 1994; Goodman, 1986; Hackman, 1990; Jenkins, 1994; Manz and Sims, 1987; Safizadeh, 1991; Sandberg, 1995; Tjosvold, 1991, 1993) typically addresses issues and problems in their institution, management, leadership, effectiveness, job design, employee participation, and national variations. Most observers assume or indicate the advantages of these new workplace practices for the organization, and its employees, now operating under conditions of extraordinary technological change and highly competitive global markets. Many studies assume the commonly held and advocated view that the installation of team and family-style structures and processes reforms outdated bureaucratic workplaces, and uniformly increases employee participation, commitment, motivation and empowerment, and organizational productivity.
Other observers of various aspects of team work and organizational reform in the past decade (Barker, 1993; Jermier et al., 1994; Kunda, 1992; Klein, 1989; Kochan, 1986; Parker & Slaughter, 1988; Sewell & Wilkinson, 1992; Sinclair, 1992) point to problems in the operation of team cultures that challenge the managerialist assumption of unitarist corporate organizational advantage and employee empowerment. The interplay of the popular, positive assumptions about team and family and their oftentimes disparate outcomes shapes the everyday organizational context of their practice and the experience of their effects. In recognition of this discursive interplay, this paper undertakes a critical analysis of a "new" corporate culture as constructed in one exemplary multinational corporation. Specifically, the paper describes, analyzes, and interprets the culture of team and family-style work organization for the purpose of examining the less visible psychic effects of these practices on employees. A critical analysis and interpretation of these psychic effects is developed which in turn provides a basis for a further interpretive discussion of the organizational practices of compliance and control. The particular contribution offered in this paper is a critical social-psychological analysis and interpretation of the psychic effects of the new cultural practices and their simultaneous constitution as devices of control. Although I make no assertions from this case of a definitive, generalizing trend, the paper's interpretations and theoretical propositions do invite reconsideration of designed organization cultural interventions, and of the ideological conventions delimiting most organizational analysis.
PERSPECTIVE, DATA, METHOD
The research gaze and the interpretive analysis draw explicitly from a psychoanalytic theoretical perspective and, implicitly, from critical social theory. While influenced necessarily by both classical and contemporary psychoanalytic traditions,(3) the paper follows more specifically the work of Fromm (1941, 1955, 1973), Jaques (1951, 1976), Maccoby (1976, 1988), and LaBier (1986) whose psychoanalytic interest in organizations seeks understanding of the emotional effects of social institutions on individuals. Other psychoanalytic approaches to organizational contexts (e.g., Baum, 1987, 1990; Diamond, 1985, 1988; Hirschhorn, 1984, 1988; Schwartz, 1990) typically consider applied organizational problems such as leadership, group processes, decision-making, conflict and anxiety management, and organization development. My twofold task in this paper is to describe and analyze the psychic effects of deliberately designed and instituted organizational culture, and to develop a critical social analysis and interpretation of those effects, which requires that the theoretical orientation of my research draw upon both psychoanalytic traditions and social theory.
Psychoanalytic theory describes and interprets primary processes underlying human activity. Its insights and interpretations can offer important contributions to our understanding of organizational practices and human experiences of organizational life. But psychoanalytic theory cannot be irrefutably transferred into social scientific research, nor its methods readily applied in an organizational research site. A psychoanalytic perspective can, though, direct the gaze of the researcher and inform the analytical interpretations of conventionally gathered empirical data. Accordingly, I acknowledge that the analyses and interpretations narrated in this paper can only persuasively claim, by the reasonableness of their treatment of the evidence, their validity and usefulness in understanding organizational enactments. The qualitative empirical study discussed more fully below is grounded in the established conventions for the conduct of qualitative field work, rigorous data collection through participant observation, in-depth interviews, and document analysis, and it was, necessarily, self-consciously informed by the guiding theoretical perspectives.
My drawing from social theory, apart from the classical heritage in both Marx and Durkheim evident in my critical social analysis of microsocial phenomena, generally invokes the tradition of critical social theory,(4) but refers particularly to my use (in subsequent sections) of the category of discipline in which Foucault's (1972, 1979, 1980) formulation is invoked. For Foucault, the social institutional regulation of persons for institutional ends is accomplished through a discursive disciplinary apparatus in which people are formed, modified, delimited, and controlled. Discursive discipline, as I use it here following Foucault, refers to culturally communicated processes that affect the employee which are not simply those rationally determined and formally enunciated in overt, codified disciplinary practices typical of any purposive organization.
Discursive practices consciously and unconsciously communicated and experienced are formative of subjective being. An interrogation and exposition of the modes of corporate organizational discourses, in particular those of team and family-style cultures and their constitution of social institutional relationships, is the first task of this paper. The second, and most important, is an analysis and interpretation of the effects of such discursive practices on subject selves at work. At that point the analysis again draws on contemporary social theory, specifically Habermas (1984, 1987),(5) to socially interpret the psychological effects described here. From the evidence presented below, I argue that the discursively constructed corporate family that elicits and simulates warm feelings of bonding and belonging simultaneously functions as a regulatory and disciplinary device - a discursive "colonization" (Habermas, 1984) of the employee self. In such a colonization, self-constituent processes of self-regulated emotional experience and expression, and self-determined judgment and effectivity, are altered and usurped by the practices of the designed corporate culture. Most importantly, the displacement of anger and dissension and the management of ambivalence by the individual enable and enact corporate practices of compliance, identification, and control. I elaborate below.
I undertook an extensive field study of a large multinational corporation located in the northeastern United States. The company is involved in the development and manufacture of advanced technological systems and in corporate restructuring. The particular question addressed in this paper draws from that extensive data. Hephaestus Corporation (a pseudonym) is a $20 billion operation trading in a global market for advanced office technologies and imaging products. The company ranks highly among the Fortune 500 companies for its development and pioneering of many of the new forms of work organization, such as …