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The 23rd EGOS Colloquium 2007  

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Roland Calori Prize

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Sub-theme 30:
It takes two to tango – Organizations and lifestyles



Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Stirling (UK)

Axel Haunschild, Royal Holloway University
of London (UK)

Chris Warhurst, University of Strathclyde/ Glasgow (UK)

Call for papers

Tango implies the expression of dramatic feelings and the closeness (or even entwining) of two opposites to produce a synergy. When this dance was exported from South America in the early twentieth century, it confronted European societies with at that time unaccepted public intimacy. Modifications reduced body contact and transformed the original dance into Ballroom Tango – a more regulated and controlled, more organized form of dance. Since the 1980s, the original has been recovered, with acceptance of a variety of forms of tango. Once accepted, it has become one of the most evocative and inspiring of dances.

The (hi)story of tango is mirrored in the interdependence between organizational membership and individual lifestyles. Representing collectively shared patterns of perception, taste and behavior, lifestyles are a central aspect of the relationship between organizations and individuals. Depending on how close and regulated this relationship is, organizational membership and individual lifestyles will amalgamate or remain distinct.

Throughout history, organizations have shaped and have been shaped by the lifestyles of their members. Early examples include the guilds and Prussian state bureaucracy, both of which linked their member’s work and non-work behavior by imposing strict codes of conduct and at the same time incorporated their members’ Christian beliefs to gain societal legitimization. In nineteenth and twentieth century factories and mines, working class community lifestyles permeated and influenced the workplace. In the UK, mine owners imposed strict separations between male and female workers to stop extra-organization sexuality permeating the workplace; in the US Henry Ford created a Sociological Department to monitor and police ‘model’ lifestyles on his new factory workers. Today, organizational culture in creative enterprises is recursively linked to employees’ lifestyles, drawing on and promoting the bohemian image of the no-collar workplace. Thus, organizational membership influences the lifestyle of individuals and the lifestyles of employees can have significant impact on organizational structures and practices, too. The intensity of this impact depends on the closeness of the relationship of organizations and individuals.

As with tango, the degree of closeness in the organization-individual relationship and its impact on the interdependence of organizational membership and individual lifestyle gives rise to discussion. Whilst some accounts of the workplace by both practitioners and academics rests on strong(er) regulation to keep the two apart, we would argue that the close tango between organizations and individuals and the entwining of membership and lifestyle is empirical reality and an important analytical focus. Such issues have been touched upon in recent debates about work-life balance and criticisms of consumer society. A number of other developments also indicate the need for reconsideration of the interdependencies of organizational membership and lifestyle: for example the rise of emotional, aesthetic, creative and knowledge work; the emergence of new forms of work, employment and organization; work intensification and longer working hours; ‘employer branding’; and organizational appropriation of youth and sub-cultures. Fragmented accounts of lifestyle as an important aspect of the relationship between organizations and individuals are evident across a wide range of literature, but they need to be systematically consolidated and theoretically integrated.

It is the aim of this sub-theme to make a first step in this direction. We would like to invite conceptual and empirical contributions that seek to critically explore lifestyles and the organization-individual relationship. Possible research questions are:

  • How do organizations mould their members’ or workers’ lifestyles according to their needs, e.g. with respect to certain aesthetic, emotional or habitus-based criteria?

  • How do employees’ lifestyles affect organizations? E.g. how does being a job-nomad, self-employed or creative/knowledge worker shape preferences and work attitudes? How do organizations react to changing and more diversified lifestyles of workers, e.g. concerning diversity management, incentive structures, recruitment or commitment strategies? How do lifestyles stabilize inter-organizational employment systems?

  • What are the effects of an amalgamation of organizational culture and lifestyles? For example, in the extreme sports, music or fashion industry, non-governmental organizations (e.g. Attac, Greenpeace) or New Economy firms, organizational culture and individual lifestyles (are expected to) converge. Often, employees do not only provide but also consume organizational goods and services. How does this affect the organization-individual-relationship and the interdependencies between organizational membership and lifestyle?

  • Are there historical, sectoral and national and/or age, sex, and ethnic patterns to lifestyles and the organization-individual-relationship?

According to the scope of the sub-theme, we particularly invite interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary papers from a wide range of social science disciplines to explore this aspect of dances between organizations and individuals.

About the convenors

Doris Ruth Eikhof is Lecturer in Organization Studies at the University of Stirling, and Research Associate at the Interdisciplinary Unit for Management and Organizational Behavior, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien. Her research interests include social theories in organization studies, creative industries, changing forms of work and organization, organizational boundaries and work and employment in the non-profit sector.

Axel Haunschild is Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Guest Professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. His research interests include changing forms of work and organization, creative industries, the institutional embeddedness of work and employment, and organizational boundaries. He has published in Human Relations, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Tamara, and International Journal of Human Resource Management.

Chris Warhurst is Professor of Labor Studies and Director of the Scottish Centre for Employment Research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. His teaching, research and writing focus on work, employment and organization in the international economy. Over 30 academic journal articles have been published including in Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management Studies, Organization and Sociology. He has published a dozen single authored and co-edited books, including Workplaces of the Future (Macmillan), The Skills That Matter (Palgrave).