From 'dirty work' to 'dirty dust'. An ethnographic study of the shadowy activities of management controllers
Lambert, Caroline; Morales, Jérémy (2009), From 'dirty work' to 'dirty dust'. An ethnographic study of the shadowy activities of management controllers, the IPA -the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting conference, 2009-07, Innsbruck, Autriche
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference titlethe IPA -the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting conference
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Abstract (EN)In this paper, based on an ethnographic study, we show how management controllers craft their jobs through their daily practice and try to stretch their occupational identity. We adopt an original posture, developing a ‘negative ontology’ of practice, identity at work and professional competition. We argue that studying what individuals hide or despise in their daily activities enriches our understanding of both identity at work and power relationships. The underlying argument is that values and concepts such as identity and power materialise through interactions and practices. These practices include any activities that make individuals proud, but also a wide range of activities they despise and try to delegate, manage, and reduce—what Everett Hughes refers to as their dirty work. We develop this analysis through the study of the management controllers of TechCo, a medium-sized French industrial firm in the aeronautics industry. In particular, we demonstrate that, within a given occupational group, several individual trajectories and strategies emerge. Although all management controllers try to avoid or delegate what they consider to be dirty work, they have differing views of the positioning of their profession. What constitutes dirty work for them depends on this view—its definition is situated. We argue in this paper that the two phenomena are related: considering some tasks as degrading implies a specific orientation of the profession; in turn, proposing a particular positioning for the profession entails defining what constitutes dirty work. Management controllers use accounting as a means of rendering invisible—or less visible—the least prestigious elements of their profession, by shifting the attention of others towards the more rewarding actions. Our case study demonstrates that the accounting eye is therefore focused on, and draws attention to, not organisational failures but whatever makes controllers proud.
Subjects / Keywordscontrôleurs de gestion; ethnographie; dirty work; Contrôle de gestion; Comptabilité
JELM41 - Accounting
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From intraorganizational struggle to co-operation between organisational professions. An ethnographic study of a French based industrial company Morales, Jérémy; Pezet, Anne (2007-12-07) Communication / Conférence