Enterprising Culture and the Ethics of Entitlement: How 'indispensable' employees turn into disruptive mavericks
Susanne Ekman, Roskilde University
This paper contributes to the debate about enterprising culture by analyzing the work ethic among talented employees who are seen as indispensable by their organization. It describes the drama surrounding the ‘high talent’ IT-consultant Clark and his quest for power and influence at work. The analysis adds nuances to the claims of both proponents and critics of enterprising culture by showing how it leads neither to win-win scenarios nor to culturally duped employees. Instead, the enterprising ethic, with its focus on talent and excellence, has produced a group of elite workers who are driven by a sense of entitlement. This makes them display maverick and disruptive behavior that endangers the social cohesion of their organization. But they are still driven by a deep sense of dedication and thus cannot be considered as simply self-serving.
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Susanne Ekman is associate professor at Roskilde University, Denmark. She holds an MA in anthropology and a PhD in management. Her research focuses on knowledge work, which she has studied via fieldwork in many different contexts: creative industries, the financial sector, IT workers, and higher education. She is currently leading a large research project on new and experimental employment forms and organizational structures within knowledge work. The project is in collaboration with unions and industry and aims at addressing the labor market challenges arising from technological changes and increasing inequality.
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