An exploration of factors affecting anomie at work.

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 An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work Eva E. Tsahuridu School of Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia Email: [email protected] th
Paper to be presented at the 6 Critical Management Studies Conference Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK 13th – 15th July 2009 An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work E. Tsahuridu Introduction Anomie was used in classical Greece by Plato, Plutarch and in the Greek Biblical texts (Orru, 1983). More recently, in 1885, the French philosopher Jean Marie Guyau, defined anomie as the absence of a fixed law and his writings appear to have introduced Durkheim to the concept (Besnard, 1988; Orru, 1983). Anomie which is today concerned with normlessness and related to alienation is associated primarily with the work of Durkheim (1947) and Merton (1957). Durkheim’s anomie, however, is described as derangement that involves immorality and madness, and not as normlessness (Mestrovic, 1987). Anomie, according to Durkheim, is a characteristic of society which relates to amorality that results from deregulation. Anomia is a characteristic of individuals initially developed in psychiatric research by MacIver (1950) and later (Srole, 1956) that sought to apply the concept of anomie to the individual. Anomia is a state of mind, a subjective condition that exists in persons that live in anomic conditions, and relates to “the breakdown of the individual’s sense of attachment to society” (MacIver, 1950). More recently it is used to explore and understand the moral behaviour of people at work and in business (Passas, 1999; Saini & Krush, 2008; Tsahuridu, 2006). Anomie in organisations focuses on the notion that trying to achieve the expected unachievable economic goals that dominate most organisations is impossible and people resort to illegal or immoral means to do so (Martin, Johnson & Cullen, 2009). This paper reports on research undertaken to explore the relationship between the primacy of organisational interest, ethical ideologies, employment, religion and ethnic origin on work and nonwork anomia. It focuses on the individual perceptions of the anomic conditions that exist in the world of work and non‐work contexts. It complements and extends previous research (see Tsahuridu, 2006) that established significant differences between work and nonwork anomia in people employed in three organisations. Following that research, data was collected from younger participants attending university, not all of them employed, to further explore the influences of work on anomia. The instruments used included the eight item anomia scale developed by Bachman et al. (1969) and the eight item work anomia scale developed by Tsahuridu (2006), both of which have been found to be reliable. In addition, the ten item Froelich and Kottke, (1991) organisational ethics scale was used with the organisational anomia scale and a ten item version of (Forsyth, 1980) Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) was used with the nonwork related anomia scale. High scores on Froelich and Kottke’s (1991) organisational ethics scale indicate a subordination of personal or societal ethical values to the organisation’s well being. Forsyth’s (1980) EPQ taxonomy focuses on the personal ethical ideologies of idealism and relativism that parallel the philosophical positions of deontology and teleology. 2
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
Anomie and anomia The last two hundred years saw some profound changes in society with the development of industrial and post industrial societies, urbanisation, democratisation and globalisation. Some of the efforts to address the impact of social change on people’s experiences include the development of anomie by Durkheim, but also Weber’s iron cage and Marx’s alienation (Kalekin‐Fishman, 2006). The relationship between alienation and anomie, developed in the literature (see e.g. Current Sociology, 1973), perceives anomie as an element of alienation. The contribution of Webber to anomie theory, however, has not been explored sufficiently in the literature (Orru, 1989). Webber, like Durkheim, perceived anomie as literally the ‘absence of guiding values’ (Orru, 1989, p. 265) the ‘total absence of ultimate ethical standards’ (p. 267). Webber argued that the rational organisation and bureaucratization of society encases people in an iron cage which eliminates choices based on values or tradition (Kalekin‐Fishman, 2006). Durkheim’s Suicide (1897) develops the theme of anomie as ‘a permanent disease of industrial society’ (Besnard, 1988, p. 92), which is ‘painful to the individual experiencing it and it hurts’ (Mestrovic, 1987, p. 571). Anomie, for Durkheim, “is a situation characterised by indeterminate goals and unlimited aspirations, the disorientation or vertigo created by confrontation with an excessive widening of the horizons of the possible, in a context of expansion or increasing upward mobility. It is loss in the infinity of desires” (Besnard, 1988, p. 93). Besnard, further explains that Durkheim’s anomie is presented on a dichotomy between acute or transitory and chronic or institutionalised. Durkheim was primarily interested in the latter type of anomie which represented the pressure on people to keep advancing towards indefinite goals. Durkheim perceived anomie as a total social fact that affects sociological, psychological and physiological aspects, indicating madness and immorality and weakening self preservation (Mestrovic, 1987), thus its relationship to suicide. Anomie, for Durkheim who perceived society as the source of morality, is the “negation of morality, not as an alternative to a prevailing system of morality; this means that anomie does not have an autonomous identity, but exists only as a lack of moral status, a deformation of the ideal standard” (Orru, 1983, p. 515). Durkheim’s anomie does not refer to a general lack or ineffectiveness of norms in society but rather to the inability of society to regulate people’s desires, the specific ‘ineffectiveness of society’s norms to limit man’s passions and needs’ (Deflem, 1989, p. 630). Durkheim developed the concept of economic anomie, in Suicide (1951), which he described as the “freeing [of] industrial relations from all regulation” (Marks, 1974, p. 331), and in Professional Ethics (1958) he explains that different occupations would vary in terms of anomie, with professional occupations not plagued by anomie unlike trade and industrial occupations (Marks, 1974). 3
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
Merton’s conception of anomie, unlike Durkheim’s which is based on the indeterminate goals, refers to the lack of means to accomplish determined or prescribed goals (Besnard, 1988). More recently, anomie is conceptualised not only as a social phenomenon in general but also as a phenomenon that exists in specific institutions that have their own values and norms (Passas, 1999). It is also considered not as absolute but it is better understood as ‘anomic trends’ that can be analysed at societal level or in relation to specific contexts with specific norms and characteristics (Passas, 1999, p. 102). Empirical research on anomie focused on the individual anomia rather than the societal level. Anomia (Srole, 1956) or anomy (MacIver, 1950) as an individual phenomenon is conceptualised as a state of mind and not a state of society (McClosky & Schaar, 1965). Anomia research is based on the premise that the existence of anomic persons denotes the existence of anomie in society (Huschka & Mau, 2006). There is a general consensus that anomia refers to a ‘subjective condition of the individual’ but there is no general agreement whether anomia is related to anomie, even though Merton and Srole support such a relationship (Current Sociology, 1973, p. 12). Srole (1956) explicitly states that he does not investigate anomia in relation to Durkheim’s or Merton’s anomie and he expressed his scepticism on the possibility of measuring societal anomie (Deflem, 1989). The individual’s degree of anomia, however, “is more readily accessible to the instruments of the researcher than is the operationally complicated abstraction [of anomie]” (Srole, 1956, p. 711). Anomia for Srole is a state of the individual person’s mind and is more related to MacIver’s (1950) definition of anomy as the ‘breakdown of the individual’s sense of attachment to society’ (Deflem, 1989), rather than the indeterminate goals or lack of means to accomplish goals. For Srole the psychological state of anomia reflects social and economic conditions and his research, as well as other research that uses his anomia scale is based on the premise that ‘certain objective social conditions cause anomy’ (McClosky & Schaar, 1965, p. 17). Srole’s anomia scale is intended as a measure of a person’s sense of “a dependable social order characterised by interpersonal trust and clarity of normative demands, the obverse of which is ‘self to other alienation’” (Seeman, 1967, P. 276). The debate around Srole’s (1956) anomie scale asserts that it measures powerlessness, detachment and other forms of alienation rather than anomie but it also satisfies the criterion of unidimensionality (Manrique de Lara & Espinoza‐Rodriguez, 2007). Unlike Srole (1956) who perceives anomia as the dependent variable and the social conditions that cause it as the independent variable, McClosky & Schaar (1965) perceive anomia as the consequence of the social conditions of the individual, his personality or the interaction of social conditions and personality. They proposed that certain personality elements such as cognitive factors, emotional factors and substantive beliefs and attitudes contribute to anomia and found that cognitive and personality factors affect it independently or together with social influences. Unlike Srole (1956) who claimed that anomia is related to the state of society and only in severe cases to individual’s mental 4
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
disturbance, McClosky and Schaar (1965) found that personality factors such as hostility, anxiety, inflexibility etc. are correlated with anomia at all levels of mental disturbance not only at severe levels. As a result, McClosky and Schaar (1965) perceive anomia as the individual’s problematic socialization rather than an individual element that is induced by society; the result of the interaction of the person with society rather than the existence of the person in society. Exploring anomia in relation to work and nonwork contexts provides an insight on the influences of work on individuals’ moral behaviour, the moral regression in the work context and the normlessness that they may experience. It also explores the concern raised by Manrique de Lara and Espinoza‐
Rodriguez, (2007) who claim that an anomic person may bring anomie into the organisation, thus making organisational anomie difficult to measure. Certain contextual pressures in an organisation result in anomic conditions “deinstitutionalizing the normative control system reflected in its ethical climates. Specifically, organizational anomie means that benevolent and principled climates tend to decline in relative influence while egoistic climates become more influential” (Martin et al., 2009, p. 122). Anomic organisations according to Manrique de Lara and Espinoza‐Rodriguez (2007) lack common norms, are prone to collapse, have higher employee turnover and lower morale. Anomie leads to deviant behaviour (Manrique de Lara & Espinoza‐Rodriguez, 2007) and corruption (Martin et al., 2009). Research by Rosenenbaum and Kuntze (2003) further found that anomic consumers were more likely to engage in unethical behaviours and describe anomic people as more self‐centered as they are more likely to defy cultural norms in order to satisfy their needs. Research indicates that several socio‐economic factors affect anomie. Middleton (1963) for example found that in the US race and education are the most salient factors of anomie, but occupation, gender and income are also significant. Huschka and Mau (2006) have also found a significant influence of race on anomie in South Africa even when socio‐economic aspects are controlled, suggesting an “ongoing importance of race‐specific socio‐psychological factors related to the historical legacy” (p. 493). Religion, Durkheim (1951) claims, is related to suicide (and therefore anomie) since it was evident that more Protestant Christians were committing suicide than Catholic. Religion was perceived as integrative and later as regulative by Durkheim, thus offering protection against anomie and since Protestantism is less integrated it offers less protection than Catholicism (Pescosolido & Georgianna, 1989). Research Instruments and Methodology The anomia scale (Table 1) developed by Srole (1956) and adapted by Bachman, Kahn, Mednick, Davidson, & Johnston, (1969) was used with a short version of Forsyth’s (1980, 1992) taxonomy of personal ethical ideologies. The anomia scale was also used by Zahra (1989) to explore the influences 5
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
on company executives of organizational politics. The second, third and eighth questions of the general anomie scale were identical to Srole’s (1966) anomia scale while the rest have been modified. Forsyth’s (1980, 1992) taxonomy of personal ethical ideologies parallel the philosophical perspectives of deontology and teleology was used with the general anomie scale. A short version (ten statements) of Forsyth’s (1980) Ethics Position Questionnaire was used in this research to assess the ethical ideologies of the participants. This shorter version of the questionnaire was used in previous research (Tsahuridu & Walker, 2001) where a factor analysis revealed that the expected classes of relativism and idealism emerged. Table 1. Anomia Scale – General 1. I feel no one really cares much about what happens to me. 2. The life of the average person is getting worse, not better. 3. These days I don’t know whom I can depend on. 4. These days I get the feeling that I’m just not a part of things. 5. I get the feeling that life is not very useful. 6. No one cares what happens, when you get right down to it. 7. People don’t really care what happens to the next person. 8. It is hardly fair to bring a child into the world the way things look now. Source: Bachman et al. (1969, p. 45) In addition to the anomia scale, the work anomia scale (Tsahuridu, 2006) was also used (Table 2) to reflect organisational estrangement with Froelich and Kottke’s (1991) ten item scale which explores areas of conflict between organisational interest and accepted ethical values. High scores on Froelich and Kottke’s scale indicate that respondents believe that ethical behaviour is subordinate to organisational interests. Table 2. Anomia Scale – Work 1. These days I get the feeling that in business, individuals are just not a part of things. 2. The life of the average person in business is getting worse, not better. 3. These days in business, I don’t really know whom one can depend on. 4. I feel no one in business really cares much about what happens to individuals. 5. I get the feeling that life at work is not very useful. 6. I find it hard to be hopeful for the future of the world the way things look now. 7. In this organisation no one cares what happens, when you get right down to it 8. People in business don’t really care what happens to the next person. Source: Tsahuridu (2006, p. 169) The objective of this research was to explore if people were likely to report different levels of anomia in the work and non work related context, and the influences of ethical ideologies, organisational interest, age, gender, religion and ethnicity on anomia. 6
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
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The sample consisted of students (N=209) enrolled in business degrees in a UK university. The questionnaire asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement with the statements provide on a 6 point scale, where 1 = strongly disagree and 6 = strongly agree. The questionnaire was distributed and collected in one teaching session, and participants were told that participation was voluntary. Analysis and Discussion The majority of the participants (62.6%) were 22 years old or younger and were local students (Table 3). Half of them were employed (88% of those part‐time) and 49% were women. The majority (78.5%) of the participants responded positively to the question: Do you have a religion and of those who have a religion, 47.3% said they always practice their religion, 42.7% said they sometimes practice their religion and 10% said they never practice their religion. 7
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
Table 3. Profile of participants Respondents’ Characteristics Gender Age group Area of study Year of study Student status Ethnic origin Employed Employment status Religion Practice of religion Category Female Male Up to 18 19 to 20 21 to 22 23 to 24 25 to 26 >26 BA Business Management BA Business Studies MA Int’l HRM BA Human Resource Management Other 1st year undergraduate 2nd year undergraduate postgraduate Home International White – British Irish Other white background Black or Black British Other Mixed background Other ethnic background Asian or Asian British Chinese Mixed – White and Asian Mixed – White and Black African Yes No Full time Part time Own business Yes No Always Sometimes Never Percentage (%) 49.0 51.0 8.1 34.3 20.2 14.1 7.1 16.2 57.1 19.4 17.3 5.1 1.0 47.4 35.9 16.7 53.0 47.0 8.8 12.4 24.4 4.1 2.6 32.1 9.3 3.1 3.1 50.0 50.0 8.7 88.0 3.3 78.5 21.5 47.3 42.7 10.0 8
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
In relation to the levels of work and nonwork anomia the results indicate that the respondents were more anomic in relation to the former. In order to test whether the difference was significant, a Paired Differences Test was performed (see Table 4) which revealed that overall work anomie is significantly higher than nonwork anomia. Table 4. Work and non work anomia Work anomia Nonwork Anomia Paired differences T *p<.01 N 209 209 M 3.27 3.05 0.21 (SD) (0.77) (0.88) (0.78) 3.91* These results confirm previous findings (Tsahuridu, 2006) that indicate that people tend to be more anomic in relation to work than nonwork contexts. The participants in previous research, however, were full time employees in management positions and were thus expected to be more immersed in the world of work and thus exhibit higher levels of anomie. There was no significant difference between levels of work and nonwork anomia and the organisational ethics scale, which emphasises organisational interest. Similarly, there were no significant differences between the relativist ethical ideology and anomie scores but there was a significant difference (F=1.95, p<.01) between idealism and work anomie but not with nonwork anomie. This finding provides some support to the notion that anomie is independent of personality factors (Srole, 1956) and not as McClosky and Schaar (1965) suggested determined by them. Employment status had no significant impact on work anomie scores, however, a significant difference (F= 4.31, p<.05) existed in nonwork anomia, with participants that were employed having lower levels of nonwork anomia than participants that were not employed (Table 5). This finding may indicate that participants that are not employed are less likely to distinguish between work and nonwork contexts, or that participants that experience work are more likely to distinguish between the two contexts. Interestingly the participants that were not employed had similar levels of work anomie as those that did work. This finding suggests that it may not be the experience of work that leads to anomie but the perceptions and expectations of world of work that does so. The fact that the participants in this research were studying in a business school needs to be explored with further research in other schools to investigate any possible influences of education. 9
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
Table 5. Work and non work anomia and employment Work anomia M (SD) 3.24 (0.84) Nonwork Anomia M (SD) 2.93 (0.91) Not employed F 3.33 (0.70) 0.70 3.19 (0.84) 4.31* Employed *p<.05 In relation to religion, participants that reported that they have a religion also had significantly higher anomie scores in work and non work anomie, than those who reported they did not have a religion (Table 6). However, there were no significant statistical differences between participants who always, sometimes, or never practised their religion despite the fact that respondents who always practiced their religion had higher levels of work and nonwork anomie than those that never practiced their religion. Table 6. Work and non work anomia and religion Religion No religion F Work Anomia M (SD) 3.37 (0.79) 2.97 (0.60) Nonwork Anomia M (SD) 9.54* 11.25* 3.17 (0.88) 2.67 (0.75) *p<.01 Work anomie was found to be significantly different (F=2.86, p<.01) in different ethnic groups but not nonwork anomie. Respondents were asked to describe their ethnic origin in terms of cultural background and identity not country of birth or nationality. Students from Mixed – white and African, other mixed and black or black British backgrounds had the highest levels of work anomie while students from other white background, Chinese and white – British/Irish had the lowest levels of work anomie. There were no significant differences in terms of gender, living situation and having children on the levels of work and nonwork anomie. 10
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
Eva Tsahuridu
Conclusion This research effort provides further insight on anomia and the factors that influence it. The findings indicate that overall what is measured with the work and nonwork anomia scales may in fact be the perception of anomia in the different contexts. What is becoming more certain, however, is that the world of work, either as an experience or an idea, increases anomia. The actual work environment may have some effect on anomia as it was established in previous research (Tsahuridu, 2006), however, participants in this research who are not working, perceive the work context as anomic as those who do work, based on their impressions of it rather than their experience. The implications of these findings is that the work context may be perceived as inherently anomic and this perception is then adjusted according to the actual experience at work. Anomia may influence ethical behaviour at work, since people may resort to immoral means to accomplish the unaccomplishable goals (Martin et al., 2009) and explain the ethical regression that is identified in the work context. Religion is another interesting finding that requires further research. In this research, participants were not asked to disclose what religion they have, something that may need further exploration to understand any relationship between religion and anomia. Overall, this research provides further evidence that people are more anomic when they are at work or even thinking about work than their non work lives. Further research to explore the reasons for this finding is needed. The current research also indicates that people’s experience of anomie is not only a continuum, where people in the same society experience it differently (Chang & Arkin, 2002) but also each person experiences anomie differently in different contexts. It seems likely that anomie is not a general psychological characteristic but it is a context specific phenomenon that the context of work seems to promote. This research supports Passas’ (1999) perspective of anomic trends and indicates that the work context with its own norms and characteristics tends to increase anomia. 11
An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
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An exploration of factors affecting anomia at work
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