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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Allan Brooks


Professor Rotondi

Sociology 150

Labor Flexibility Paper


In this Research paper I have chosen to focus on the place where I work and I chose it because it is a company that is less than a year old. I wanted to understand and observe the growing pains of a new company and how turnover effects flexibility, it is a bureaucratic company within the food service industry that is far more popular on the east coast and throughout the world. I also want to observe how eventual increased popularity affects the flexibility of their employees and how it also affects managers scheduling and the role of the owner. The company has suffered many growing pains due to a first-time owner with very little experience with management.

I asked my manger (John,) I also asked a shift leader (Sarah) and a fellow co-worker (Gemma) who coaches new employees. In this paper they will be called John, Sarah and Gemma who are 29, 22 and 49 respectively, they have all agreed to be interviewed. I have also included a fourth person who is in charge of food preparation who will be called James who is 32, this was so as to identify the different kinds of flexibility within the workplace. As someone who works both in food preparation on the food line I want to see the different aspects of those who do only do one or the other, and maybe find it harder for flexible labor hours.

I conducted interviews and these were the questions that I asked;

1.How flexible are your working hours in your current job? Have there been moments in your life when you have needed time off but haven't been able to get any? How has turnover affected your hours?

2.Do you feel that employees are given a certain amount of freedom within the workplace, on how they do their work? How are mistakes within the workplace dealt with?

3.Are there many promotion opportunities within the job? Or are people more often than not hired from the outside to become shift leaders or managers?

In my interviews I found that the answers varied depending on the rank within the company the higher ranked within the company you were the less flexible your hours were. This was a common theme for all four of my interviewees as all have responsibilities that cannot be covered by a lower ranked co-worker, they have to find someone who is at the same level to them, i.e. a shift leader must cover a shift leader and a coach must cover a coach, the manager can only swap or have their shifts replaced by the owner, and head of food prep has no official cover. James who is the head of food prep stated “when things come up at the last minute it's tough because there's no one who can actually cover me, and even when I ask for time of in advance it's always a problem, because I'll have to leave a strict list of what has to be done, and instructions of certain situations to tell them what I check every morning so that I can make sure we are stocked with food for the day, I am constantly always getting called by co-workers when I am not there”.  

They also all stated apart from John the manager who always has a full work schedule that the turnover of a new business has affected all of them as when someone quits, it's usually a shift leader who picks up the slack because more is expected from them by management, even if that means working overtime and not having a life outside of work for a few weeks whilst they find a new hire. Another common theme was freedom within the workplace to be able to try new things was virtually non-existent, and innovation wasn't discussed as Gemma said “When we do food prep it is strict, when using machines that some of us use four times a day we always have to get a manager or a shift leader to check it. This is even if the person checking it never uses it because shift leaders don't do any food prep, we have to check with managers that we've labelled the dates right, there's very little freedom as everything we do is always being double checked”. Sarah also expressed the emotional labor they use on a day to day basis “we have a strict list of what to say to customers, every time I am here I have to put my work face on”. When it comes to mistakes within the workplace punishments seemed to be swift and severe as co-workers have been demoted, as John explained “having such a hands-on owner, and being so new in the area, means that when mistakes are made he always feels he has to make an example to set a precedent for future behavior even when it is unnecessary”. A recent example of this was the owner demoting a shift leader back to a regular team member for a month, after one of the team members she was in charge of had committed a health violation that she wasn't aware of.

It seemed like so far with the company that there isn't much upward mobility within the company “All the shift leaders and managers and heads of food prep have been outside hires except for me” said Sarah “but I mainly think that's because so many people quit early on and I'm the only one who actually stayed”. All the others confirmed they were outside hires, even Gemma who is only a coach, which is only one spot higher than a regular team member.

Sociology is the science of humans within society, and how they group together and interact, I will be focusing on flexibility within the work place and how it has affected the modern labor market and I will be basing it off the interviews I have done.

Flexibility is a sociological term that can have many meanings , there is labor flexibility, operational flexibility, and market flexibility just to name a few. Flexibility is a hard word to define and there is truly no one definition for it as it can mean one thing to an employee and one to an employer. In this paper we will focus on labor flexibility.  

Labor flexibility is the arrangement between employees and employers which allows for them to negotiate hours around core times. It is a varying work schedule, as opposed to the more traditional 9am to 5pm a day. There are many different examples of flexibility and they are all used within the workplace to attempt to achieve success.

This system includes employees having more choice of when to work as well as the number of hours that the employee is able to work. Other choices are when to work, depending on the work place and the hours that they may offer, as although there is flexibility there are only so many hours to go around. However, most employers will have various ways of catering to their most important employees.   

Firstly, there are core employees that form the main labor market, they are favored more highly, are usually better paid and more involved in the organizations activities, those who have managed to climb the job ladder. These are generally managers, or higher position members within the company. Then are those who have skills that are required but may not be specific to the firm, examples of this can be accountants who may only work for the company during tax season, or other occupations such as typing and word processing. Then there are those who have even less job security, as their employment is limited because it is either a short term or a part time position and with a lack of promotion opportunities worker turnover is often high.   

At the place of work, I have chosen we only have 3 core employees, the manager, marketing manager, and hiring manager, then we branch down and we are all flexi-workers, however shift leads despite having more authority have less flexibility in there hours, due to the fact that they can only be covered by those who have the same ranking as them or higher. Then we branch down to coaches whose responsibility is training new employees, however unless they have to train a new employee, they can swap shifts with each other or already trained team members who find themselves on the bottom of the pile.  

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