Beyond the Boundaries: An Ethnographic Analysis of Spatially Diffuse Control in a Small Firm

Reveley, J., Down, S. and Taylor, S. (2004) ‘Beyond the boundaries: An ethnographic analysis of spatially diffuse control in a small firm’, International Small Business Journal 22(4): 349-367.

25 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2014

See all articles by James Reveley

James Reveley

University of Wollongong - Faculty of Business (BUS)

Simon Down

Anglia Ruskin University

Scott Taylor

University of Birmingham

Date Written: February 26, 2004

Abstract

This article presents an ethnographic study of control and resistance in a small professional service firm in the port transport industry. Attention is drawn to the importance of informal interaction between the owner-managers and their employees at a site beyond the organisational boundary, namely the local public house. It is argued that this ‘extra-organisational’ interaction provided the setting for rituals of resistance in which the participants achieved a modicum of role distance. These rituals, in turn, fulfilled a latent ‘tension-release function’ (Goffman, 1990: 241) that served subtly to reinforce and reproduce order in the firm. On the basis of this argument, our article makes a twofold contribution to small firm research. First, the combination of functionalist and interactionist theory in the analysis of micro-socially situated dimensions of control and resistance provides fresh ‘insights into how the complex and contested dynamics of interpersonal relations in small enterprises are handled’ (Ram, 1999b: 15). Second, our analysis suggests ethnographic research has considerable methodological potential to deepen the understanding of small firm employee relations.

Keywords: small firms, ethnography, control, space, employee relations

Suggested Citation

Reveley, James and Down, Simon and Taylor, Scott, Beyond the Boundaries: An Ethnographic Analysis of Spatially Diffuse Control in a Small Firm (February 26, 2004). Reveley, J., Down, S. and Taylor, S. (2004) ‘Beyond the boundaries: An ethnographic analysis of spatially diffuse control in a small firm’, International Small Business Journal 22(4): 349-367., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2479797

James Reveley

University of Wollongong - Faculty of Business (BUS) ( email )

Building 40A, Level 2
NSW, 2522
Australia
42214626 (Phone)
42272785 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.cleverlink.com.au/mgmt/profile.cgi?.i=jreveley

Simon Down (Contact Author)

Anglia Ruskin University ( email )

East Road
Cambridge CB1 1PT
United Kingdom

Scott Taylor

University of Birmingham

Birmingham B15 2TT, Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom

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