The Organizational Theory of Layoffs in “Office Space” and “Up In The Air”

The post I chose was How layoffs have evolved from “Office Space” to “Up in the Air”.  The article discusses how the organizational culture has changed over time, specifically from the movie “Office Space” to the new movie “Up In The Air.”  The movie “Office Space” was a cynical view of corporate culture and downsizing, whereas the movie “Up In The Air” is a realistic view of corporate culture and downsizing.  Even in “Office Space” the mechanical process of laying off employees at least included the managers of the company where the downsizing was occurring.  In “Up In The Air,” the downsizing was outsourced to “termination engineers” who was someone outside of the company who had no attachment to the employees.

The post discusses the ways in which corporations now insulate themselves from having to explain layoffs to employees.  The post portrays how the employee/employer relationship is one sided, giving the employee no power in the case of a layoff.  This relationship can be illustrated by the rational system paradigm.  The rational systems paradigm is defined by:

“A structure is formalized to the extent that the rules governing behavior are precisely and        explicitly formulated and to the extent that roles and role relations are prescribed             independently of the personal attributes and relations of individuals occupying positions in the     structure”(Scott, Davis, p. 29)

These corporations have very explicit roles for the members of the corporation, such as employee and employer.  Only the employer has the power to lay off an employee and the employee has no recourse.  In both movies the layoffs are very mechanical because the rules governing behavior of the layoffs are so specified.  The people conducting the layoffs have a very specific procedure in “Office Space” as to how they choose who they will lay off, and in “Up In The Air” what will be said when they lay them off.  The definition of the rational systems paradigm is a definition of an organization which explains why these layoffs occur in the way that they do.


One Response

  1. Although the events of lay offs are usually mechanical, some companies are now using social networking features to change the way lay offs work. Zappos recently used Twitter to provide employees information on their recent lay offs. Maybe this situation gives the employee more power and deviates slightly the rational systems paradigm somewhat.

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