Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

By Richard N. Adams; Jack J. Preiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE FIELD WORKER IN UNION RESEARCH*

John Gullahorn and George Strauss.

ONE OF the most difficult problems faced by the field researcher is that of structuring and maintaining his role. The role he adopts must be one that will gain acceptance by others yet allow him to do the research-all without too much emotional strain upon himself.

The following discussion of problems that we faced while engaged in human-relations research in local unions is offered as an additional contribution to the growing literature involving "human relations skills in social research."1 Our conclusions are drawn primarily from personal experience with one situation involving a CIO union that replaced an "Independent" union in a large manufacturing company; however, reference will be made to other cases with which we are familiar.2

The fact that both authors worked on the same situation was pure coincidence. Strauss's interest was in the general area of human relations in local unions and, in particular, the development of the CIO locals in this situation. Gullahorn was involved in making an intensive study of social relations in one department within the plant. Upon completing that study, he began research into role conflicts faced by union officers. Although we exchanged notes and consulted each other as to strategy, our work was essentially independent.

Our research techniques included observation of membership and committee meetings of all kinds, participation in informal gatherings, non-structured interviews, and use of documentary data from union files. Interviews were held after meetings, in the union offices and at the members' homes. Gullahorn also observed union-management grievance nego

____________________
*
Modified from Human Organization, Vol. 13, No. 3 ( 1954), pp. 28-32.
1
Floyd C. Mann ( 1951), Floyd C. Mann and Ronald Lippitt ( 1952a), Burleigh B. Gardner and William F. Whyte ( 1946), and Stephen Richardson (11).
2
Field work done by Strauss formed part of the research background for The Local Union; see George Strauss and Leonard R. Sayles ( 1953). Part of the work was supported by the Grant Foundation. Gullahorn's research was supported in part by the Laboratory of Social Relations, Harvard University.

-153-

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