Collaborative Networks Among Female Middle Managers in a Hierarchical Organization
I present empirical findings from an observational study of female municipal middle managers who are home help assistants in elder care. The observations showed that the home help assistants' sphere of activity was influenced by two distinct patterns: the official line organization and the invisible horizontal social network. I first give a brief description to the immediate background of the present study. Then I describe the line organization and give two empirical examples of information exchange where the practical implication of the line organization at different levels is visible. However, the study also revealed another pattern opposed to the line organization, called the horizontal network. I will give an empirical example of an incident that illustrates how the home help assistants use a social network to solve problems and to make judgments. The study showed that these networks are not persistent – they are rebuilt depending upon context. Members of the network can be people both within and outside the municipal organization. Decisions and problem solving are thus conducted in a process of interaction and negotiations with other people. The social networks are not visible in the official organizational description. Still they form the foundation for the home help assistants' work and influence their ideas of how the work should be conducted. Finally I discuss some implications of the line organization and the social network and the possible consequences when introducing new technology, i.e., computers in work. In this case the computers were planned to support the line organization but not the work practice of social networks.