Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Policy Change Inside the Enterprise: The Role of Anthropology


Cite this article:

Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings 2009, pp. 59–71.

This paper addresses corporate policymaking and its varied meanings through organizational hierarchies and across departments. We argue for an approach to policymaking and implementation in large companies such that the impact on work remains visible to decision makers, and such that employees engage with, and promote the changes being made. In evaluating the effects of a policy change inside our company, we found that not only did the justifications for the original policy not hold up, policy implementation negatively impacted certain job roles and departments and employee engagement was undermined. A key implication of our findings is that implementation plans should assess the impact on affected parties, and we suggest that anthropologists are well-suited to conduct this assessment. If deployed to evaluate the effects and effectiveness of policy changes on people, work practices and perceptions, anthropologists can influence the direction of policy as it is being formulated and tested, and recommend adjustments to better achieve policies’ stated aims.


The makings of corporate policy are often invisible to those affected by it; likewise policymakers themselves are often unaware of the impact of the rules they develop on workers below. Policymaking can have a significant effect on the ability of a corporation and its employees to “take care” of business, however, these implications are often not well understood by the policy makers themselves. This paper addresses corporate policymaking and its varied meanings through the corporate hierarchy and across departments—and the resulting effects—many of which are unintended. As corporations respond to dramatic economic changes, internal policy can have considerable influence on how those shifts are perceived and implemented, as well as on the engagement and commitment of employees.

Policy Research

In social science literature, the term “policy” generally refers to “public” policy or governmental policy. But policy inside organizations or corporations has been largely neglected in published research. Likewise, very little anthropological writing considers the workings of policy from inside large corporate entities. To the extent that anthropologists consider policy, they have done so largely from the standpoint of advocacy, i.e., either how actors such as non-governmental organizations and transnational corporations push for public policy, legal, or social change (Ferguson 1994, Hardt and Negri 2000, Gupta and Sharma 2006). Nevertheless, anthropology has long dealt with issues of institutions and power. And since its days in colonial administration, anthropology has, perhaps less directly, studied policy (Wedel, Shore, et al 2005:32). More recently, ethnography has been touted for its strengths in evaluating policy, including how local actors implement, interpret and sometimes resist policies (Hornberger and Cassels Johnson 2007). When employed by anthropologists, the emphasis is generally on “local” actors engaging with the policy process, framed as people from below engaging with policy from above, and demonstrating how that engagement changes the meaning and outcome of the policy itself. As in other domains, anthropologists who engage in policy research demonstrate a taste for “resistance” and “opening spaces” for action for those typically thought (by non-anthropologists) to have little agency in larger processes.1 Focus on resistance narrowly characterizes policy as a dominating force against which locals employ “weapons of the weak.” Our focus is rather on contradictions, effects, unintended or otherwise, and multiply determined meanings.

Despite the scant research on organizational policy, lessons can be drawn from tracing how policy is designed or implemented in broader contexts such as states or even cities—the domains in which most policy research, including a limited amount of ethnographic research, has been carried out. For instance, policy formulation and implementation are often not carried out by the same bodies. Who generates the policy and the presumed, perceived, or actual authority they have over those expected to implement or follow it might make a significant difference in whether those who implement believe they have a choice in the manner of implementation or whether to implement a given policy at all. Those who implement will have their own views of the policy and to neglect these is to neglect an important dimension in how the policy gets put in action. This means that translation through the hierarchy, country, or bureaucracy will invariably create multiple meanings, interpretations and practices.

Since those who implement the policy and those impacted by it influence both the meaning and the results of a given policy, it is worth considering mechanisms by which stakeholders at all levels and functions of an organization can be included more directly in the process of policy formulation and revision; a quick ethnographic audit could help identify affected parties crucial to bring into the process (cf. Hornsby 2006:78).

As one study puts it: “An anthropological approach attempts to uncover the constellations of actors, activities, and influences that shape policy decisions and their implementation, effects, and how they play out” (Wedel and Shore et al 2005:39). In our case, that constellation of actors, influences and factors shaping our policy and how it played out include the following: 1) external factors stimulating the perceived need for a given policy; 2) organizational culture and structure; 3) original decision maker(s); 4) those who communicate the policy; 5) those who are directly affected; 6) those who carry out operational changes; 7) and those who evaluate the change and implementation.

Before continuing, it is worth laying out definitions of some of the key terms at play in this paper. By implementation, we mean “decisions made in carrying out a policy” (O’Toole 1979). By impact, we mean effects of policy, implementation, and interpretation, whether intended or unintended. Unlike “public” policy, corporate policy can cover aspects of a business or workplace that are not obviously of fundamental concern to the organization. Corporate policy, moreover, is to be distinguished from a given corporation’s “mission” and “vision.” A mission is a short statement of the nature of the business and its purpose; a vision is a short statement of the direction the organization hopes to take, an aspiration for the future (Hornsby 2006:77). As Hornsby puts it, “Missions address what organizations do, visions identify where they are going, and values identify what they believe about the nature of their work.” Policies put these into practice through an attempt at action (ibid).

Organizational Context and Mail Delivery Policy Change

At the time of the study, both authors were employed as Workplace Anthropologists in the research division of Pitney Bowes (PB), a 90 year old US based Fortune 500 company. Best known for postage meters, PB has extensive businesses in mail, document management, and business software solutions, including a complex mix of operations and organizational social groups made up by dozens of acquisitions carried out in the last decade. In 2001, the research division was reorganized to take on a more customer centric approach, and non-technologists, including designers and anthropologists, began to join the staff. At the time of research, two dedicated anthropologists were employed at the company and both were put on the project.

Up to that point, anthropologists at PB were mostly deployed to conduct research aimed at understanding customer needs to help develop new products, services, and technologies for the company, but an increasingly common secondary role has been to conduct research meant to solve internal problems or with an eye towards driving a desired internal change (more customer-oriented work practice; cultivating a culture of innovation). As word has spread around the company about what anthropologists can do, they have been put to use for an increasing variety of ends. It was in such an emerging climate that senior management and an internal line of business with whom we had done previous work brought us in to evaluate the impact of a recent policy change.

The policy change, which affected the delivery of certain mail items, came at the direct request of PB’s then CEO, who was concerned with the environmental impact of mail, mailroom efficiency, and the potential implications of Do Not Mail legislation on the company’s core business. Do Not Mail legislation has been proposed in many states as an equivalent to Do Not Call; the basic idea of the proposed laws is to allow consumers to make legally enforceable requests to be removed from mailing lists. In order to obviate the need to pass legislation that would stop unsolicited mail altogether, Pitney Bowes executives have been concerned with finding solutions to better ensure that what is delivered to consumers is of interest to them. Coupled with the perceived threat of Do Not Mail was the then peaking concern for the environment. Al Gore’s film and countless business journals and magazines were excitedly describing the opportunities of “green” or environmentally responsible business, and it was against this background that the new mail delivery policy was proposed.

The specific policy was to limit the delivery of Standard Mail (items such as catalogs, advertisements, and magazines) to Fridays only, and to stop delivering “personal” mail altogether in the three largest Pitney Bowes offices where mail services were managed by Pitney Bowes Management Services (PBMS, a business unit that provides mail delivery and associated services to hundreds of companies around the world). Up to that point all mail regardless of postage class or intended usage was delivered to employees every day. The stated aim of the policy change was to reduce the environmental impact of mail and to increase efficiency. The CEO requested this change to the President of PBMS, who in turn assigned the implementation duties to operations directors and on-site managers. The Vice President of research was concerned about the implications of such a change for a company with mail as its core business and, together with the President of PBMS, asked that data be collected to support either the continuation or termination of the policy. Though we were asked to conduct the research after the policy changes were put in place, we were unaware of these changes until we were asked to do the research. In fact, many PB employees were unaware of the changes – unless and until their work was directly affected.


Following conversations with a research director and client representatives, we decided to limit the scope of our research to understanding the impact of the policy on: PB businesses, incoming mail delivery and employee work practices. Our first step was to match this scope to a research design, and, given pressures to maximize efficiency, determine the minimum necessary research to determine these impacts. We decided that we needed to speak to a representative sample of stakeholders who would care most about the policy change or be most affected by it. Since we did not yet know what the impacts of the policy would be, this sampling could be only partially determined in advance.

In the spirit of ethnographic research, we decided to make the best roadmap we could and just begin observing and speaking to people. What we learned first would determine what we needed to know later. We began with what was easiest to set up and with what we knew we would have to explain to our clients no matter what else we found. This approach had the advantage of allowing us to report on insights about the impacts of the policy as it was being implemented, including how those impacts varied across functional, departmental and hierarchical lines.

Since our work was commissioned by the organization in charge of delivering internal mail, we decided to begin our field research directly with mailroom employees in order to understand how delivery changes affected their work. Our client hoped that by delivering less mail, there would be some gains in efficiency and therefore labor cost savings. We therefore observed incoming mail sortation and delivery in two mailroom locations. We conducted observations on both regular weekdays and on Fridays, since Fridays were the assigned day for Standard Mail delivery. We also used the time to talk with PBMS employees about their daily work practices and the changes in their work based on the policy.

We then conducted contextual interviews with 36 employees in 16 different departments. By “contextual” we mean: 1) in the context of both their ordinary work and as related to their functional position; 2) the role that paper mail plays in that work; and 3) any work or activity triggered by the receipt of mail, either observed by us or described by the interviewees. The idea was to trace the varying use and importance of internal mail to different personalities, departments, functional roles, and levels of the corporate hierarchy. We spoke to employees at ranks ranging from Administrative Assistant to President. Our aim was to understand the work practices and values of employees around incoming mail and to understand the opinions of individuals whose businesses or functions might be affected by the change. This included what employees thought of paper mail, delivery practices, and the recent changes as well as the policy itself.

To get a sense of the importance of a sample of mail to interviewees’ work and their conscious perceptions of that importance, we tried to schedule interviews when employees would be going through their daily mail. To get a limited view into what difference different delivery days might make, we asked a number of interviewees to keep several days worth of mail. A subset of these interviewees were asked to keep a log of what mail came in and what they did with it and why. In the interviews, employees discussed their jobs and daily work practices and told us about each mail piece—what it was, what they did with it, what work it created for them, and to what extent it was typical of the mail they generally receive. The interviews often led to more general discussion about the importance of paper mail to work today as opposed to other forms of communication, such as email, and how that has evolved over time.

We quickly saw emerging patterns that shaped our subsequent research and analysis. For instance, one salient pattern was that some departments and functional roles seemed to care more about physical mail receipt than others; some felt that incoming mail was mission critical for their work; others felt that mail had already gone the way of the dinosaur and could not remember the last time they stopped by their mail slot. To begin to trace the differential pattern of the impact of incoming mail to people’s work, we charted the types of mail received for each department or functional group, the work stimulated by the mail, and the impact of missing or delayed mail on the work. In order to create an objective view of what mail was arriving, we also noted the composition of items of different postal class and internal PBMS labeling types: First Class, Standard Class, Interoffice, and “Personal” (as classified by mailroom staff).


Findings clustered around three key areas: meaning, implementation and impacts, especially impacts on the work of employees and functional areas. In brief, the meaning(s) of the policy varied by the given interpreter, including their functional role and rank and the degree of their involvement with implementation. The ways in which mail affects the work was not considered in the formulation of the policy; decisions about delivery, moreover, were made by employees who generally know very little about the implications those decisions might have on others’ work; nor were the impacts of the policy necessarily in alignment with the stated goals of the policy.

Meaning of Policy Change through Corporate Hierarchy and Across Functional Roles

As the policy was passed down through the corporate hierarchy, its interpretation and meaning evolved. Our conversations with senior executives, mid-level executives, and mail center staff revealed different understandings of the policy, both in terms of implementation and implications. When we spoke to employees at different levels—from President of PBMS to operations directors to on-site managers to mail room employees—they each described the policy differently. This partly reflected the differences in the perspectives each individual’s job afforded him or her, but also raised issues of both how to relay meaning down the chain of command and how to relay the practicalities of on the ground implementation up to those who make policy. What seemed obvious at higher levels, namely “don’t deliver these kinds of mail,” was in fact not straightforward at all.

As we moved to speak to employees outside PBMS itself, we found a broad range of knowledge about the policy. The policy change was communicated to managers through email and a posting on an internal website accessible only to managers. The assumption was that managers would relay the message to their employees directly. Since incoming paper mail is not top of mind for many managers, and as many managers are too busy to read mass emails, the majority of workers were not made aware of the new policy before it was implemented. Employees often learned of the new policy only when they received sticky notes on “personal” mail pieces warning them that it and similar items would no longer be delivered. Many employees were made aware of the policy by the authors in the course of our interactions with them. But even those who were aware of the policy were not informed of the goals or intentions behind the policy—only the tactical implementation details. Employees making their own interpretations of the goals, or in some cases, completely lacked understanding of the context: “I don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish.”

Importance of Mail to the Work

The policy’s impact on work fell into two categories, both linked to the classifications shaped by the policy itself: those to do with class of mail (since Standard class mail was to be delivered only on Fridays) and those to do with the need to distinguish “personal” from business mail (resulting from the ban on delivering personal mail). We found that mail mattered much more to some types of work than it did to others. Contrary to expectations that standard mail was not important or time sensitive, we found that in certain case it was both.

Decisions on what to deliver, and when, were made by mail center employees who were largely unaware of the various work contexts of the employees they deliver mail for and how mail may or may not fit into that work. This knowledge is needed in order to distinguish work mail from personal mail, and to understand how time sensitive certain mail pieces might be. For instance, a call center manager who ordered gifts to reward employees found that her catalogs were being marked as personal. A Human Resources lawyer who receives hand-written letters from employees and invitations to professional events worried that these items might appear personal to mail center staff. Overall, there was consensus that determining what mail is personal and sorting it out is difficult or impossible: “You don’t want…a mail room entry level employee making decisions about what to destroy and not to.”

The presumption inherent in the policy decision to deliver standard class mail on Fridays only was that mail delivered in this class, which takes longer to arrive, must not be important for the business. In fact, we observed many instances of standard mail triggering work, and for more than one department a delay in its receipt could cause problems. For most employees, standard mail such as trade publications helps them stay aware of what is happening in their industry or “triggers an ‘aha moment’ to investigate a new tool or technique.” These are admittedly not time sensitive. However, corporate marketing evaluates ads and articles in magazines both the make advertising decisions and to maintain awareness of how the company is portrayed in the media. For them, “having standard mail delivered one time a week is not acceptable,” and this because mail “has already been delayed, so we are adding more time on top of that when we are ostensibly using it to make decisions.” An administrative assistant in another department simply noted that the logistics of all standard mail on Friday presented a problem by saying, “I cannot imagine getting a stack of mail for 10 people in my department with the bulk of it being on Friday…I can see the bulk of it sitting there until Monday which defeats the purpose.” This is to say that the mail would arrive on Friday but what needed to get done in connection to it would not begin until Monday; the delay was not just until the end of the week, but into the following one.

Likewise, “personal” mail can have an impact on employees’ ability to do their jobs. We observed that, in practice, what was marked “personal” was often work-related (e.g. Bar Association mailings to a lawyer). But even mail that was truly not work related in content can affect the work. Employees who need to be at home to wait to sign for an important item are distracted from work. Some employees, such as contractors, interns, and people temporarily stationed overseas do not even have permanent addresses where they can receive mail. As one employee noted, “It’s in the same category as ‘we help with emergency day care.’ We help employees…keep…more focused at work”

Impacts of the policy change

A key aspect of our analysis was to assess the impacts of the policy relative to the initial stated goals, and the data revealed areas where there were unforeseen impacts.

Impacts relative to initial corporate/policy goals—The primary reasons why the CEO had asked for the change in delivery policy were expressed as taking steps to counter the perceived threat of Do Not Mail legislation. He believed that the primary drivers for Do Not Mail legislation were consumer annoyance with unwanted mail and consumer concerns about the environmental impact of mail (particularly the number of pieces that are thrown out because they are unwanted). While the implementation of the policy may have reduced the number of unwanted pieces delivered to some employees, it did not did not prevent paper from being produced and transported, which is where the majority of mail’s carbon footprint lies.

The other stated goal of the policy change was to increase mailroom efficiency. Based on our observations, PBMS mailrooms were not saving work time. In fact, we observed that if anything, the policy change slowed mail center employees down rather than increase their efficiency. They had to spend additional time looking at each mail piece, placing Standard Mail items into new pigeonholes (to await Friday delivery), and to place warning labels on “personal” items to inform recipients to redirect such mail to their home addresses. The time saved by delivering less mail Monday-Thursday was minimal, since they still had to walk their entire rounds.

We also found that even for mail center employees who work with mail every day, identifying the different classes of mail is not always straightforward. We noticed that many items with a “non-profit” permit were delivered throughout the week, though these are in fact standard mail. Likewise, mailers are allowed a certain amount of leeway in how they design permit indicia, meaning they do not always say “standard mail” on them. And, if a mailer uses a meter for standard mail, the only indication of the class comes from the postage amount. These can be very fine-grained details to look for during mail sortation, especially when the primary concern is ensuring the right mail piece gets to the right person. And the impact is mail gets mis-sorted and potentially misdelivered; what seemed like a straightforward directive : “don’t deliver catalogs and junk mail” (words understood, and described by our clients, as taboo in a mail company)—was in practice difficult or impossible to implement, at least at the level of mail delivery.

So the policy did not, in fact, address its stated areas of intent: 1) it did not benefit the environment and could not, therefore, be used to counter the threat of Do Not Mail; 2) it did not save employee work time and did not, therefore, reduce labor costs. Moreover, the implementation process was vulnerable to errors that could impact both the work of intended mail recipients and the company’s bottom line.

Impacts Beyond Stated Goals—While one of the stated goals of the policy was to take steps to address concerns about unwanted mail and the environment, many employees were worried about the possibility that stopping internal mail might create negative publicity for the company. As one employee noted, “To me it’s so conflicting to be doing business on this and not deliver the mail…We try…to run [companies’] mailrooms, and then we say by the way, we don’t want to deliver your mail.” Likewise, many were concerned about the message the policy sent about mail as an industry, noting that it contradicts PB’s message that mail is effective and valuable, and that “PB should be encouraging mail, not discouraging it.” Others maintained that since the majority of the company’s customers are mailers, anything that could cannibalize the core business should be avoided.

The effect on employees, and in particular “employee engagement” was perhaps the most tangible impact we observed. Employee engagement is currently a key operational issue in many companies, including Pitney Bowes, as it is based on the philosophy that engaged employees are more likely to perform to the benefit of the organization (Robinson 2004). While engagement is generally measured in surveys, we observed that, for many employees, a level of trust and comfort in the organization was taken away by the policy change. Employees cared about their mail and how the company might handle it. As one stated, “Mail is a very personal thing, to me anyway. What’s in my mailbox is mine. I don’t want you making that call for me.” Another simply said that allowing him to receive the mail he wants to get at work “is the minimum the company can do for me.”

Engagement was also affected by the ways in which the policy was (and was not) communicated. The general sentiment was that slapping an orange sticky on mail was an inappropriate way for the company to communicate. Moreover, employees genuinely wanted to know the rationale for the policy. Employees’ level of understanding of the policy goals, as long as they bought into them, had a direct impact on their engagement with the policy. As one employee noted, “I want PB to tell me what the value is. If there is no value to PB I don’t want to take the overhead on myself.” In this case, many employees who were informed of the environmental/Do Not Mail justification did not buy it, as they knew that at the point in the mail process at which the policy comes into play, the carbon footprint has already “been sunk.”

Using an ethnographic approach thus revealed impacts and “costs” on stakeholders not usually included in evaluations or assessments (cf Henry, Bales, and Graves 2007). One of these was clearly on employee engagement. Had the policy process called for employee involvement from the outset, the impact on engagement might have been positive rather than detrimental.


During the course of the research, we worked closely with our sponsors in PBMS. Both the Vice President for Operations, the Area Operations Director, and the Customer Operations Manager for the Pitney Bowes mail centers were aware of our findings and we had numerous discussions on how to move forward. They were extremely concerned that changes in mail delivery should have a positive impact for both customers and PBMS’s bottom line, and were interested in the findings because they had also been skeptical of whether the policy would have the effects intended by the CEO. We also jointly reflected on ways in which PBMS could offer new services to external customers that might positively address concerns about environmental issues and unwanted mail.

These findings were delivered to the President of PBMS, who was also very receptive to the conclusions and who planned to deliver selected insights up the line to the CEO. As of the time of writing (approximately one year after the findings were delivered to the President of PBMS), standard mail is being delivered the day it arrives in the mail center. Sticky notes are no longer placed on “personal” mail and catalogs and magazines deemed personal are shredded rather than delivered. According to mail center staff, the volume of both of these categories of mail has greatly reduced from when the initial policy was put in place. It is difficult to disentangle the causal factors as to why this is the case. Staff believe the reduction in mail volumes have declined as a direct result of the policy changes, but internal mail volumes had already been declining for several years. The drop most likely resulted from some combination of these two factors.

Subsequent internal research conducted in connection to other projects has led to convergent findings indicating the need for transparency in corporate intent and open communications. The findings from these studies, some still ongoing, have been communicated to stakeholders throughout the company, and broader changes are becoming apparent as these stakeholders develop new policies and actions. For example, a Vice President in Corporate Marketing, who both took part in the initial study and was a recipient of later research, has launched a corporate wide “idea challenge” asking employees how to foster more meaningful dialog between management and employees. In general, these high-level efforts are in tension with a widespread feeling in the company that employees are not widely engaged by upper management: that key decisions, including those directly impacting employees, are made without their input, and that the rationale for these decisions is usually not well explained.

This point ties directly into the question—raised by several other papers in this conference—of what happens to the results of research after the “hand off” to clients. Since our clients were internal and since the work described here was one of a series of studies done for executives across the company—the results have become part of accumulated knowledge at the upper ranks of the organization as well as in the research division. So it is now well known that employees want more transparency and better communication from the upper ranks; that they would like to be more involved. However, as with any acquired knowledge, long-standing structural and organizational cultural patterns can stand in the way of action: the use of individual and work group “objectives” can prevent thinking about the greater good of the organization, including involvement of individuals and groups outside of one’s direct mandate.


A seemingly banal internal policy can have serious implications on an organization’s external image; in the present case, the change triggered strong reactions among employees as to their perceptions of the company. It also impacted the way work got done inside the business. If employees had been engaged in the policy making and implementation process, employees might not only have become “engaged,” they could be directly involved in managing external perceptions of their company. Policy can be a way of engaging employees in achieving corporate goals as opposed to just telling them this is what is being done. In order to ensure that policy is followed, understood, and bought into, management would need to involve employees in policy changes and the reasons behind them. This will avoid both a lowering of employee engagement and could have the effect of motivating employees to transmit positive messages externally.

Since those who implement the policy and those who have a stake in it—in the broad sense of being impacted by it—influence both the meaning and the results of a given policy, it is worth considering mechanisms by which stakeholders at all levels and functions of an organization can be included more directly in the process of policy formulation and revision (Hornsby 2006:78). With respect to our case, this would have been largely impossible at the moment of the policy’s initial formulation, as we did not know in advance who would be affected or how. A quick ethnographic audit might have defined the key affected parties clearly enough to bring them to the drafting table (cf. Hornsby 2006).2 Once these are established, an “information loop” can be put in place to demonstrate some of the impacts of policy changes as they occur in implementation. Using ethnographically derived information for this purpose brings into view affected parties, including widely diverged perspectives, that are normally not considered for the purposes of policy formulation, much less evaluation. Consideration of these perspectives combined with actual observation of the practical implementation of policy can point to insights and impacts that policymakers and lead implementers would not be able to articulate or otherwise consider (cf. Evans and Lambert 2008). In this case, a well intentioned desire to address environmental and business concerns combined with a rush to respond to a high level corporate request meant that the potential impacts of the policy were not fully considered in advance of implementation. Nonetheless, anthropologists were strategically brought into the discussion at a critical juncture and were able to influence future directions and help forestall negative reactions from both employees and the outside world.

Alexandra Mack is a Workplace Anthropologist in the Advanced Concepts and Technology Division of Pitney Bowes. Her work is focused on developing ideas for new products, services, and technologies based on a deep understanding of work practice. She is currently focused on understanding how to best enable employee networking and collaboration.

Josh Kaplan is an anthropologist and research fellow at Yale University, Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He consults for organizations ranging from grassroots NGOs to Fortune 500 companies and is looking out for better ways to make use of anthropological expertise. At Yale, he is finishing a book on the social and political dimensions to international lawmaking.


1 In anthropology and sociology, the study of policy has been concomitant with recent calls for more public engagement, “public” anthropology and “public” sociology. Recent studies have called for anthropologists to take a more active role in influencing policy, advocating on behalf of positions and groups: “not only studying alternative policies but also working as advocates and with the people they have studied to put pressure on governments, international agencies, and multinational corporations to get them to change” (Okongwu and Menchner 2000; see also Haenn and Casagrande 2007). Such work reflects an outsider-like, adversarial point of view. Our internal study of a policy change in a particular organization is not confrontational in nature, though it did not shy from pointing out the contradictions between stated expectations, implementation and impact, nor did it shy from suggesting that a particular population be treated differently, in this case that the broad employee population outside of the upper executive ranks be treated in a more participative manner—for the good of executives, employees, and good policymaking more generally.

2 A growing literature suggests that participation in workplace decision making increases employee loyalty and trust and thus reduces resistance to change: “Direct involvement in the change process enhances employee acceptance of change, due in part to the enhance information flows that help employees understand the need for change and in part to employees having part ownership in the change process” (Schwochau and Delaney et al 1997: 381).


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