WORK – It doesn’t mean what it used to. For an earlier generation, work invoked time structured by the factory and the punch clock, or time structured by the fields and the seasons. And in fact, there are still many thousands in Canada who work in factories and on farms. But the fastest growing areas of work are in the service sector – retail, banking, finance, computer services, education, social services. And our time, in these professions, is increasingly structured not in 8-hour blocks, but in bits of time parceled out over 24 hours, seven days a week.
ORGANIZATION – This new, diverse and fragmented world of work has had powerful effects on organization. The foreperson and shift supervisor still play a role. But in large organizations, human resource departments have become central actors. In the public sector, issues of governance intersect with issues of employer-employee relations. In the private sector, globalization has meant intense pressure for corporations to constantly re-invent themselves. And what about the tension between vertical and horizontal organizational structures in the non-profit and volunteer sectors? Organization also does not just refer to how work is organized. It also refers to how workers organize, and union organization remains central to both work and organization in Canada.
These are only the more “traditional” frameworks with which to capture the notion of work and organization. In an earlier era, emotional labour was seen as the purview only of the home. But we now know that emotional labour is embedded in the fabric of all that we do. In an earlier era, the idea of the “chilly climate” referred only to the weather. We now know that climates can be chilly inside workplaces – and that can have enormous and very negative impacts. And we also know that inside workplaces, questions of status cannot be reduced to economic class. Status and hierarchy are gendered and racialized in powerful ways.
LEADERSHIP – This all puts enormous demands on leadership. Here there are real tensions. There will be no return to the internal leadership structures typical of the “Mad Men” era. There is a new literature on transformational leadership, and new emphasis on cooperation and collaboration. But what happens when these new theories of leadership intersect with sudden and catastrophic changes in the economy, as we witnessed in the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009? What happens when they intersect with a workforce that is increasingly contingent and insecure?
WORK, ORGANIZATION AND LEADERSHIP – Because these questions animate us, we have shaped the Work, Organization and Leadership stream within the Master of Arts – Integrated Studies (MA-IS) program at Athabasca University. If these questions animate you – then check out our course offerings, and come study with us.