Workplace Ethnography (WE) Project, 1944-2002 (ICPSR 3979)

Published: Dec 15, 2005

Principal Investigator(s):
Randy Hodson, Ohio State University

Version V1

This Workplace Ethnography project generated content-coded data from the full population of book-length English language organizational ethnographies. Drawn from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, United States, and Zambia, these ethnographies provided deep descriptions on a wide range of topics, such as worker behavior, management behavior, coworker relations, labor process, conflict and resistance, citizenship behavior, emotional labor, and sexual harassment. Coding of these characteristics yielded variables based on descriptions of worklife in specific organizational settings. The study data was collected in mainly two periods: the early 1990s and the early 2000s. The study generated 204 ethnographic cases. These cases were derived from 156 separate books since the observations reported in some books allowed the coding of multiple cases. The general scope of questions included organizational factors such as occupation, workplace organization, pay scheme, employment size, the situation of the company, the nature of company ownership, staff turnover, layoff frequency, how well the organization operated in terms of communications, recruitment and retention of personnel, and maintenance of equipment, as well as substantive facts concerning labor market opportunity, and labor force composition. On the topic of management, questions addressed leadership, organization of production, sexual harassment, and control strategies. Community factors were assessed through questions regarding unemployment and if the area was rural or urban. A series of questions addressed job satisfaction, pay, benefit package, job security, effort bargain, conflict with management/supervisors, training, worker strategies, conditions of consent/compliance, and nature of consent/compliance. The nature of work was queried through questions regarding autonomy, creativity, meaningful work, freedom of movement, comfort of work, injuries, employment status, and frequency of conflict with customers. Additional questions included size and nature of the focal group, group dynamics, conflict between the focal group and management, basis of alternative social groups at work, and if work friendships carried over to the outside. Questions about methodology covered ethnographer's theoretical orientation, focus of ethnography, ethnographer's gender, data collection method, supplemental data used, main type of supplemental data used, and position of key informant. Additional items gathered basic information about book title, author's last name, modal occupation, industry, country/region, and observer's role.

Hodson, Randy. Workplace Ethnography (WE) Project, 1944-2002  . Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-12-15.

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National Science Foundation (0112434)

This data collection may not be used for any purpose other than statistical reporting and analysis. Use of these data to learn the identity of any person or establishment is prohibited.

1944 -- 2002

For additional information, including related publications visit the Workplace Ethnography Web site at

The target observations were identified according to three elements: (1) the use of direct ethnographic methods of observation over a period of at least six months, (2) a focus on a single organization or a small set of organizations, and (3) a focus on at least one clearly identified group of workers: an assembly line, a typing pool, a task group, or some other identifiable work group.

Book-length English-language workplace ethnographies.

The data generated were based on 204 selected ethnographic cases. These cases were derived from 156 separate books, which represent the full population of book-length English language workplace ethnographies.

event/transaction data



2005-12-15 On 2005-08-15 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-12-15 to reflect these additions.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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