A Saviour Emerges: A processual view on normative control in practice

University essay from Lunds universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: This Master’s Thesis contributes with a rich description of normative control as a social process, through the illustration and interpretation of the practical efforts and sense-making that surround it. These contributions are made possible through an ethnographic case study at a medium-sized, fast-growing dotcom company with a distinct and salient corporate culture and normative control efforts. The mystery, however, is how the company exercises control and keeps its staff happy while most of them are performing tedious and repetitive work tasks. By applying a dramaturgical framing device, we illustrate how the staff engages in a performance involving the creation of an organizational anti-identity. This enables the company to emerge as a saviour, which justifies and legitimizes control efforts, in turn resulting in grateful and loyal employees who accept repetitive work tasks as part of their obligation. Additionally, we show how the concept of neo-normative control—rather than providing ‘existential empowerment’—enables normative control efforts to take a firmer grip on the individuals’ identity (Fleming & Sturdy, 2009). In conclusion, we show how corporate culture, normative control efforts, and organizational identity work can be observed to create a continuous loop of socialization, justification, legitimization, and institutionalization (c.f. Berger & Luckmann, 1966).

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