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Management’s moral relativity regarding personal activities on company time
Karlstad University, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Communication and IT, Department of Working Life Science. Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-8182
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

When people are at work they are expected to work and not spend time on other things. But people do not engage exclusively in work; they also engage in a variety of non-work related activities, which Eddy et al. (2010) choose to term ‘personal activities on company time’ or PACT. What personal activities people engage in is determined by what they consider urgent in one way or another, and what is possible to do at the specific workplace (Ivarsson & Larsson, forthcoming). So far, most studies on this subject have focused on subordinated personnel (Lim 2002) but mid- and top-level managers also engage in PACT (Schou Andreassen et al. 2014; Ivarsson & Larsson 2015). However, management attitudes to PACT vary significantly between their own activities and the behaviour of their subordinates. Based on in-depth interviews with 20 high-level managers from different sectors and industries in Sweden, the paper explores the differences in attitude and presentation of PACT.

We explore the incidence and rationale presented for respective actions of workers and managers,    which betrays an underlying moralising theme around work ethics that echoes back through the historic concerns of the Labour Process debate. Since the days of Taylor (1911), management have moralized about the personality and the attitude among workers – their inherited laziness and their never-ending tendency to ‘soldier’ – which has led to a perceived need to keep on monitoring and controlling employees by various means. Employees who, in one way or another, withholds working capacity – for example by engagement in some non-work related activity – are believed to cause financial loss for the organization (Self & Self 2014) and are also believed to influence overall work ethic in a negative way (Kamp & Brooks 1991).


From the data, managers engage quite extensively in personal activities on official work time. Even though employees and managers may have similar reasons for engagement in personal activities, the managers believe that there is a big difference between the two.  The managers’ general perception is that work time should be devoted only to work. They do not approve when an employee engage in any other activity than work; to engage is PACT is presented as “stealing” time, and indicative of a flawed work ethic. Nevertheless, when managers themselves engage quite extensively in personal activities on official work time, this is presented as a benefit of an inherently good work ethic, or “borrowing” time based on a capacity for compensatory calculation. Even in cases where a narrow band of legitimate PACT activities for workers were tolerated, this compared to managements’ lack of need to justify their engagement in a near limitless range of non-work activities. There has been a lot of focus on blurring of work and non-work roles for managers and the need for boundary management (Rothbard et al, 2005). The managers in this study presented the inversion of this logic with the assumption of a lack of competing needs for non-managerial workers and any blurring of the boundary being regarded as “soldiering”.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Personal activities on company time, organizational misbehaviour, management, moral
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-41704OAI: diva2:919788
The 34th International Labour Process Conference "Working Revolutions: Revolutionising Work", 4th -6th April 2016, Berlin,Germany
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2010-0730
Available from: 2016-04-15 Created: 2016-04-15 Last updated: 2016-07-11Bibliographically approved

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Ivarsson, LarsLarsson, PatrikMacKenzie, Robert
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