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Accepted Paper:

“During a busy day I don’t get much done”: values of work / non-work in a multinational service firm in Mumbai/India  
Frauke Moerike (TU Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper illustrates ambiguities and paradoxes of what the employees see and value as “real work” in contrast to everyday lived praxis at the corporate offices of a multinational corporation in the consulting sector of Mumbai, India.

Paper long abstract:

“During a busy day I don’t get much done.” This quote from a business consultant summarizes the dilemma discussed in this paper: what officially counts as “real work” rarely corresponds to daily lived praxis in the office.

Ascertainable deliverables in the form of documents, excel reports, or presentations slides stand in the focus of attention and most employees in the organization are measured on them. Their correct, accurate and timely submission represents the formal basis determining career advancements or failure of the individual, including an elaborated value system attached to the various types of deliverables. This output focus stands in contrast to the Alltagswelt in the office which is characterized by highly frequent, non-formalized interactions (face-to-face, phone, chat, email). These are getting paradoxically even more intense in situations of upcoming deadlines for submission. Such a scenario of high interaction between the agents is exactly what transaction cost economics try to minimize, assuming costs for each coordination activity between the individual agents to achieve the production of goods or services (Ronald Coase). The ethnographic example suggests a rather contradictory work practice, yet it might be an explanation for the employees’ focus on the outputs of the work and their notions of “not getting things done”, despite being constantly involved into work related communication and decision-making processes.

The paper is based on 12 months of fieldwork at three offices of a multinational consulting company in Mumbai, India, with approximately 800 employees of various hierarchy levels and designations.

Panel P032
Value(s) of labour in austerity-era Europe
  Session 1