This project studies how a workplace democracy emerges. While there is increasing interest in less hierarchical organizations and their proliferation, the dynamics of their emergence are still poorly understood. Drawing upon ethnography of a nascent worker cooperative, we discover that emerging workplace democracies are plagued by an inherent tension: while nascent organizations must operate entrepreneurially, quickly adapting to changing circumstances, experimenting with different strategies, and developing new relationships with outside stakeholders, the creation of organizational democracy requires that workers simultaneously invest scarce time and resources in the construction of democratic governance structures.
In addition to identifying the tension, we also show how young workplace democracies can find a way to grow without fully resolving the tension – in other words, ‘growing with’ the tension. We discover that this path-finding is particularly aided by resource munificence, which enables organizational members to imagine the organization’s long-term future. Extending the prospect on the organization’s future can create space for both democratic and entrepreneurial ideals in day-to-day organizing, mitigating unproductive collisions and increasing possibilities for productive synergies between logics. We believe these findings meaningfully advance the current literature focused on operations of established workplace democracies by shedding light on complexities involved in the creation of workplace democracy.
Young-Hyman, T., Kim, S., & Sobering, K. Democracy Ends at the Budget: How Resources Attenuate Tension between Competing Ideals in Emerging Democratic Organizations. Analyzing Data.