Anyone who has been employed by an organization knows not every official workplace regulation must be followed. When management consistently overlooks such breaches, spaces emerge in which both workers and supervisors engage in officially prohibited, yet tolerated practices--gray zones. When discovered, these transgressions often provoke disapproval; when company materials are diverted in the process, these breaches are quickly labeled theft. Yet, why do gray zones persist and why are they unlikely to disappear? In Moral Gray Zones, Michel Anteby shows how these spaces function as regulating mechanisms within workplaces, fashioning workers' identity and self-esteem while allowing management to maintain control.
The book provides a unique window into gray zones through its in-depth look at the manufacture and exchange of illegal goods called homers, tolerated in a French aeronautic plant. Homers such as toys for kids, cutlery for the kitchen, or lamps for homes, are made on company time with company materials for a worker's own purpose and use. Anteby relies on observations at retirees' homes, archival data, interviews, and surveys to understand how plant workers and managers make sense of this tacit practice. He argues that when patrolled, gray zones like the production of homers offer workplaces balanced opportunities for supervision as well as expression. Cautioning against the hasty judgment that gray zone practices are simply wrong, Moral Gray Zones contributes to a deeper understanding of the culture, group dynamics, and deviance found in organizations.
"Moral Gray Zones is an important book for scholars of organizations to be aware of and read, especially to continue building empirical knowledge of the subterranean administration and underlife of workplaces. . . . Moral Gray Zones is argued well, accessible and does what very good research should do--advance knowledge in a field for others to evaluate, contest, affirm and advance."--David Shulman, Contemporary Sociology
"Scholars of organizational deviance will . . . find it to be particularly illuminating. Moral Gray Zones would be apposite for a senior, undergraduate level course as it makes both substantive and theoretical contributions to our understanding of gray zones in organizations."--Dale Spencer, Canadian Journal of Sociology
"The deep and lucid writing style and clear structure of the book make it enjoyable reading. . . . The book is recommended reading for sociologists and business scholars alike who are interested in organization studies, and more specifically in workplace studies. It will be of particular interest to scholars and graduate and undergraduate students in the fields of the sociology of work, organizational sociology, sociology of occupations and professions and also economic sociology. The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the social system of production, the interface between vertical and horizontal forms of work, and of the centrality of creativity and self expression even in large bureaucracies."--Asaf Darr, ASQ Review
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