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Bored and Busy

An Analysis of Formal and Informal Organization in the Automated Office


Phyllis L. Baker

The stereotypical clerical worker is harried, overworked, and underpaid. This notion is reinforced by both common sense suppositions and the findings of most sociological studies. A picture of machine-bound people exhibiting robot-like behavior is conjured up in our heads. Yet do these common sense suppositions and sociological analyses do justice to the clerical worker? Is there more to the drudgery of clerical work and the automated office than meets the eye? Drawing from participant observation and indepth interviews, Baker argues that there is. As she demonstrates, even though the clerical workers operate within a formal context which is subordinating and constraining, the workers mitigate part of that context through empowering strategies including creating unofficial practices, and managing states of boring and busyness.
Contents: Analysis of social and historical context - Organizational design - Informal organization of clerical workers in automated offices - Ethnographic method - Addresses macro/micro dialectic - Perspectives and activities of workers are subordinating and empowering.