Technicians in the workplace: Ethnographic evidence for bringing work into organization studies

TitleTechnicians in the workplace: Ethnographic evidence for bringing work into organization studies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsBarley, S. R.
Secondary TitleAdministrative Science Quarterly
Abstract

Groundwork is laid for new models of work and relations of production that reflect changes in the division of labor and occupational structure of a postindustrial economy. It is demonstrated how new ideal-typical occupations can be constructed, drawing on a set of ethnographies to propose an empirically grounded model of technicians’ work. Focus is placed on two questions: what technicians do and what they know. The answers constitute a first cut at the ideal type technician. Evidence is presented of the difficulties that arise when organizations employ technicians but fail to appreciate the nature of their work. It is shown how a contextually derived model of technicians’ work enables people to evaluate why some recent trends in organizing are congruent with an increasingly technical workforce, why others may be misguided, and why organizations are likely to face challenges that organizational theorists have but vaguely anticipated. It is shown that the emergence of technicians’ work may signify a shift to a more horizontal division of substantive expertise that undermines the logic of vertical organizing on which most organizational theory and practice still rests.

URLhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/2393937