|Title||Spillovers From Cooperative and Democratic Workplaces: Have the Benefits Been Oversold?|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||2008|
Scholars and practitioners generally agree that employee cooperation in the workplace is beneficial for both employees and their companies. Employees in cooperative settings tend to report higher levels of morale, job satisfaction, organizational citizenship, commitment to the organization, and trust in organizational leaders, as well as lower absenteeism, tardiness, and intention to quit, all of which contribute to better organizational performance. Research regarding the degree to which these cooperative arrangements in the workplace spill over into employees’ lives outside of work is less clear, however. In this chapter, I will examine spillover effects on employees who are involved in a subset of cooperative workplace arrangements, namely those related to decision-making on the job. I am particularly interested in examining possible spillover effects among employees in worker-owned and/or worker-run companies (namely, producer cooperatives and employee stock ownership firms or ESOPs) where employee/owners meet, deliberate, and decide both broad and specific company policies, and in workplace teams in conventional firms where employees are responsible for deliberating and deciding certain questions related to production or delivery of a service. If cooperation in the workplace produces spillover effects, one ought to see such effects in these two types of cooperative decision-making settings.
One cannot examine all possible spillover effects, of course. My focus in this chapter will be on those areas of potential spillover effects of cooperative decision making most often cited by advocates for worker-owned and managed companies, and for teams in conventional workplaces. For the former, enhancement of democratic citizenship has been the possible spillover effect that has received the most attention; for the latter, employee well-being, defined mostly in terms of mental and physical health, and work-family conflict, has garnered the most attention. I will ask, then, whether participation in decision-making by employees in worker-owned and worker-run companies have important spillover effects on their roles as citizens in the larger society and whether being on work teams in conventional companies positively or negatively affects employees’ well-being outside the workplace. I focus on empirical research that addresses these questions, some from secondary sources and some from my own several research studies devoted to these topics. Though I find some empirical evidence of positive spillovers to both citizenship and well-being, there is less than might be supposed, given the enthusiastic literature that extols the positive benefits of workplace democracy and work teams. I find this conclusion both troubling and unavoidable.