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Workplace Democracy and the Problem of Equality
Technical Communication
  • Jared S. Colton, Utah State University
  • Avery C. Edenfield, Utah State University
  • Steve Holmes, George Mason University
Document Type
Society for Technical Communication
Publication Date

Purpose: Professional communicators are becoming more invested in unique configurations of power in organizations, including non-hierarchical and democratic workplaces. While organizations dedicated to democratic processes may enact power differently than conventional organizations, they may fall short of practicing equality. This article explains the differences in non-hierarchical workplaces, considers businesses where democracy is a goal, and argues for considering equality as a habitual practice, particularly when writing regulatory documents.

Method: We conduct a review of the literature on non-hierarchical workplaces and organizational democracy, applying Jacques Rancière’s concept of equality to two examples (one using primary data collection and one using secondary data) of two cooperatives where organizational democracy is integral to the design of the business.

Results: The literature review exposes an interest in mêtis (cunning, craftiness, flexibility) as vital to practitioner success in non-hierarchical workplaces; however, this article demonstrates that mêtis does not prevent inequality, even in organizations expressly committed to workplace democracy.

Conclusion: Professional communicators need to consider equality not solely as a structural resource (as in rules, laws, policies) but as a habitual practice to cultivate alongside other characteristics and frameworks important to a professional communicator’s toolkit.

Citation Information
Colton, James S., Edenfield, Avery C., and Holmes, Steve. "Workplace Democracy and the Problem of Equality." Technical Communication, vol. 66, no. 1, 2019, pp. 53-67.