In the Name of Flexibility: Three Hidden Meanings of “The Real Work” in a Finnish Software Company

In the Name of Flexibility: Three Hidden Meanings of “The Real Work” in a Finnish Software Company

Marja-Liisa Trux (Aalto University School of Economics, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1836-7.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter takes you to a data security workplace in Finland. It presents reflections on the tensions of managing selves and others, as experienced by the employees and the managers. It argues that a generally critical approach to normative management may overlook the actual complexity and ambiguous nature of the late modern cultural environment. Both self-authoring and manipulative moves are made difficult by the amalgamating hegemonic and countercultural currents. The author points at chances for resistance through new forms of literacy. Instead of dropping “culture” as a conservative or managerial pursuit, we must learn to navigate successfully in the broken cultural landscape of today’s workplaces. The very same images that can be used for manipulation are open to more solidary configurations by the cultural and social imagination of organizational members.
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“Flexible” Work And Its Cultural Context

Many writers have drawn attention in the last two decades to the widespread use of the image of ‘flexibility’ in dominant postmodern discourse, especially concerning work and production. For Richard Sennett, this is one of the cornerstones in the talk of the managerial elites or “Davos men” (Sennett, 1998). Liberated from the iron cage of rigid organizations, workers must now survive the fierce competition of postmodern, unpredictable markets, selling their capabilities anew each day and renewing their skills as best they can (Sennett, 2006). I have myself listened to a representative of the Confederation of Finnish Industries reciting the necessary qualities of today’s workers as “creativity, curiosity, interaction, development, renewal, faith in one’s own opportunities, target setting, interest in the customer, skill to tackle in the network of ever more differences, social skills, learning from other cultures and transformability.” He also quoted Charles Darwin as having said that “only the most transformable [sic] survive”3 (Pokela, 2005).

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