Dignity at Work

Dignity at Work

Dignity at Work

Dignity at Work


Working with dignity is a fundamental part of achieving a life well-lived, yet the workplace often poses challenging obstacles because of mismanagement or managerial abuse. Defending dignity and realizing self-respect through work are key to workers' well-being. In this book Randy Hodson, a sociologist of work and organizational behavior, applies ethnographic and statistical approaches to this topic, offering both a richly detailed, inside look at real examples of dignity in action, and a broader analysis of the pivotal role of dignity at work.


Working with dignity is a foundation for a fully realized life. Despite many denials of dignity faced daily in the workplace, people still strive to do their best, to take pride in their work, and to defend themselves against indignities from employers, and sometimes from coworkers. New challenges are constantly being created for working with dignity by the inexorable process of technological and organizational change and by the unrelenting drive of market systems for profit maximization.

In spite of the centrality of the quest for dignity at work by billions of workers around the world, the pursuit of dignity is rarely a central focus of scholarly writings on the workplace. The challenges to workers' wellbeing posed by technological, organizational, and market forces are sometimes a focus. However, rarely do we consider the very serious business of how workers respond to these challenges on a daily basis in the office suite and on the shop floor. The creative and purposive activities of employees to achieve dignity at work are the central focus of this book. I hope that by considering these activities we can gain a better understanding of the daily struggle for dignity at work and the central place it occupies in workers' lives.

I rely on data from a systematic analysis of the population of organizational ethnographies. These data provide an empirical base for studying the quest for dignity. The in-depth observations offered by workplace ethnographies provide a unique source of information on organizational life that has previously been underutilized.

The inspiration for this book was provided by the work lives and the quest for dignity of many different people. These people include friends, family, acquaintances, employees at offices and factories where I have worked, visited, or toured, and the many students with whom I have discussed workplace issues including our own and other's quests for dignity at work. I hope this book will be helpful to those who read it and who may see their own struggles reflected in it.

The efforts of many people combined to make this book possible. I would like to thank the men and women in the accounts analyzed here . . .

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