Social Change in the Workplace

Published January 18, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Precipitous change, both peaceful and vehement, is a fact of life that practically everyone on planet earth has come to envisage, if not unconditionally accept.  According to sociology professor and author Jay Weinstein (2010) from Eastern Michigan University, “a great social cultural revolution is sweeping the world” (p. 3).  A historical juncture has been attained at which the former ways of conducting human affairs from the interpersonal to the international levels are becoming less effective.  This year for example, because of the technological sophistication of electronic communication, for the first time in television history, a prime time television show drama on the CBS network’s hit series, Hawaii Five-O allowed viewers to choose the ending of an episode in real time with the aid of electronic devices like smartphones, tablets and computers.

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Just as the modern era deposed feudalism, globalization is reformatting contemporary society.  This research is focused on my personal experience of social change in the workplace and the impact it produced from the functionalist, conflict, and interpretative perspectives when the board members at Capitol Records (a former place of employment) restructured the organization.  This significant event involved substantial personnel cuts and the shutting down of an organizational branch.  These changes created conflict and confusion for both contractual and non-contractual employees as the functional requisites were shifting in the way of personnel and economic resources.  In addition, panic ensued within the organization as workers attempted to interpret the action and parameters of the social change.

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The music industry is constantly in a state of flux.  A musician can enjoy great success or can meet artistic doom through the efforts of their record company.  Executives are always searching for the next megastar.  There is no one way to success and no one can predict what the public will embrace as a hit, or scoff at as a flop.  As a result, the board of directors is, at times, forced to make changes when the executives miss the mark on what constitutes a successful music star and what is considered wasted energy.  When a company does not reflect significant profits, while the books reveal extreme expenditures for artists that are not attracting substantial returns, or worse, lose their popularity, adjustments are calculated to navigate the organization towards profit and success.

Revenue at Capitol Records was in decline and the organization was exhibiting signs of struggle.  The functional requisites were shifting with respect to the minimum number of personnel required to keep the company operational within the frame of the economic resources available.  As a solution, the organization faced a restructuring situation.  In their concerted effort to downsize, an outside agency was employed to provide the hatchet man duties.  The institution in this instance did not require the main body of personnel to conform or participate in the decision to remodel the organization.  Staff members were unsure of job security until they were summoned by the hatchet man for verification.

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The organizational change that was implemented created panic within the structure as workers were attempting to comprehend the action and parameters of this new paradigm shift.  The organizational edifice affected was comprised of two floors.  The main body of personnel was located on the ground level, while the upper floor housed two divisions – the offices of the President and the offices of the Vice President of Business Affairs (the author’s supervisor).  Our department was advised of the organizational changes and I was asked to participate as the assistant to the hatchet man in the downsizing process.

On the one hand I was relieved that, for me, a firm position within the organization still existed.  On the other hand, it was an emotionally difficult task to call each individual employee to their final exit meeting.  That call was something people I had worked with for years were dreading.  A situation-insensitive brother made remarks how proud he was that I was chosen to assist in the organization’s blood bath.  On the contrary, in my view, it was equated to the position of a modern day accomplice to the staff executioner.  Although the hatchet man was a very kind individual with a soft spoken demeanor, his task was not an easy one and it affected me deeply because of my empathy for the people that had been my colleagues and friends – some for many years.  The power of the event and my involuntary participation of this social change presented personal conflict because of my espoused values within the organization and my sympathy towards the people that were being asked to leave.

The new social setting created a reality that redefined the organizational structure implemented by the stranger cast as the terminator.  The idea of job stability was modified as each individual struggled with the change imposed on them.  When individuals heard the phone ring, a disposition of low self-esteem emerged as the withdrawal papers were delegated one by one.  The facility shut down shortly after the event concluded.  Employees that were not dismissed were assimilated in other areas of the organization.

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The world faces a long list of threats that include: (a) hunger, (b) disease, (c) poverty, (d) despair, (e) pandemics, (f) global climate change, and (g) aging economies.  Breakthroughs in society occur when the demand for an end to deprivation, marginalization, and equality ultimately overwhelms the resistance (Light & Reynolds, 2011). Breakthroughs in companies incur change with episodes of restructuring that often include considerable downsizing of personnel as part of the process.  These are the tools of agitation that disrupt and replace the status quo.  The changes that transpired at Capitol Records were instigated by a variety of circumstances which included (a) the completion of the President’s contract; (b) the sale and shutting down of the building; and (c) the financial climate of the corporation.  Individuals who initially challenged the reforms eventually learned to create a new normal.

In conclusion, social change continues to evolve with globalization having a significant impact on contemporary society.  Two fundamental principles drive change: (1) power, and (2) love.  Love is defined as the drive towards unity and power towards separation (Kahane, 2010).  To create lasting change, individuals should learn to work fluidly towards unity and must uncover a means to balance these two forces.  When we learn to shift between power and love, we can begin a new order that will assist to move society forward.

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References

Kahane, A. (2010). Power and love: A theory and practice of social change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Light, P., & Reynolds, C. (2011). Driving social change: How to solve the world’s toughest problems. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Weinstein, J. (2010). Social change. (p. 3). Pymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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