Disorganized, Unilateral, and Participative Organizations: New Insights from the Ethnographic Literature



Disorganized workplaces are often overlooked in contemporary models of the workplace. Contemporary accounts more typically analyze organizations in terms of tight management control or in terms of participative workplace models. This article examines 109 organizational ethnographies describing a wide range of workplaces, including many poorly run and disorganized (“anomic”) workplaces. Such workplaces evidence high levels of worker resistance. In contrast, participative workplaces evidence high levels of citizenship behaviors. Unilateral or “top-down” organizations are expected to encourage accommodation behaviors, but this hypothesis is not supported. Instead, both accommodation and resistance are highest in disorganized workplaces. The continuing importance of disorganized workplaces—workplaces that provoke strong worker resistance—represents an unmet challenge to organizational theory and practice.