A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
13. Critical sensemaking and workplace inequities Jean Helms Mills and Albert J. Mills FROM ORGANIZATIONAL RULES TO CRITICAL SENSEMAKING Our approach to the study of workplace inequities has developed over time from a focus on organizational rules (Mills, 1988a, 1988b, 2004; Mills and Murgatroyd, 1991), through sensemaking (Helms Mills, 2003, 2004b), to what we have come to call ‘critical sensemaking’ (Helms Mills and Mills, 2000; O’Connell and Mills, 2003; Helms Mills, 2004b; Mills and Helms Mills, 2004, 2006a; Helms Mills et al., 2006; Helms Mills and Weatherbee, 2006; Mullen et al., 2006). In our recent work we have used critical sensemaking to understand how the interaction of structural and social psychological processes contribute to gender identity at work (Thomas et al., 2004). To explain critical sensemaking we need to look at the two central elements – organizational rules and sensemaking. Organizational Rules By organizational rules we mean, ‘in the broadest sense, outline steps for the conduct of action’ that, depending on circumstances, are experienced as controlling, guiding, and/or defining (Mills and Murgatroyd, 1991: 30). Such rules are written and unwritten, formal and informal. They can also be normative, moralistic, and/or legalistic. On their own, individual rules can contribute to gendered expectations and identities where they suggest or impose discriminatory expectations on one sex as opposed to another. For example, the 1924 official ruling of the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN) that women be excluded from the flight crews of commercial aviation not only stopped the hiring of female pilots but...
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