Evaluating the Role of Blat in Finding Graduate Employment in Post-Soviet Ukraine: The 'Dark Side' of Job Recruitment?

Employee Relations, Vol. 36 No. 3, 2014, pp. 254-265

12 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2015

See all articles by Olga Onoshchenko

Olga Onoshchenko

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to evaluate the use of personal connections to circumvent formal procedures, known as blat in the Soviet era, in post-Soviet societies by studying its role in graduate employment recruitment.

Design/methodology/approach – To do this, the extent to which and how blat is used by graduates to find a job in the city of Mykolayiv in Ukraine is analysed through 85 face-to-face structured interviews with those who in the past seven years have sought employment after graduating from university.

Findings – The finding is that blat is widely used by graduates to find a job. However, contrary to the existing literature which suggests that blat has become commodified in post-Soviet market societies with monetary payment being requested by and given to personal connections “pulling strings”, no evidence is found that this is the case. Instead, this remains a non-monetised form of friendly help by and for close social relations, akin to the Soviet era, and is viewed in a positive or neutral manner by participants even though its consequences can be to circumvent meritocratic formal recruitment procedures and foster nepotism and cronyism.

Research limitations/implications – This study of blat is limited to analysing graduate recruitment in one city in Ukraine. Broader empirical research on the contemporary role of blat in this and other spheres in post-Soviet societies and beyond is now required so as to develop a more nuanced context-bound understanding of both the positive and negative facets of this social practice in contemporary societies.

Originality/value – This study reveals that blat is commonly used to find graduate jobs and is widely viewed as a socially acceptable practice, despite hindering meritocratic recruitment procedures.

Keywords: Informal economy, Business ethics, Corruption, Ukraine, Guanxi, Eastern Europe,Wasta, Blat, Job recruitment, Cronyism, Nepotism

JEL Classification: H26, J46, J48, K34, K42, O17, P2, P3

Suggested Citation

Onoshchenko, Olga and Williams, Colin, Evaluating the Role of Blat in Finding Graduate Employment in Post-Soviet Ukraine: The 'Dark Side' of Job Recruitment? (2013). Employee Relations, Vol. 36 No. 3, 2014, pp. 254-265, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2708451

Olga Onoshchenko

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

9 Mappin Street
Sheffield, S1 4DT
United Kingdom

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/williams/index

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