Exploring Surveillance: The Case of Organizational Drug Policies
thesisposted on 20.10.2010, 09:28 by Charlotte Sanderson
In light of the increasing proliferation of organizational drug testing in both the US and the UK, this thesis explores employee responses to this managerialist mechanism with specific reference to the ‘social order’ of drugs, surveillance, discipline and work-life balance. As Brewis et al. (2006) suggest it is important to consider this topic prior to it becoming an established practice in the UK in particular. My research questions are therefore concerned: 1. To examine the extent to which employees accept, accommodate or resist drug testing policies. 2. To consider what the ethico-political implications of these policies may be for individual employees, organizations and society at large. Importantly this thesis makes a significant contribution to Organization Studies (OS) and Critical Management Studies (CMS) literature alike. Although the issues of surveillance, discipline and work-life balance have been given significant attention by these scholars, to date the literature has remained resoundingly silent on the issue of employee drug testing. Methodologically negotiation of access to an organization for the purpose of researching this extremely sensitive topic was also successfully achieved. Based on the data collected, the thesis contends that respondents’ understandings of the drug test as more or less legitimate tended to vary with the level of their personal experience of drugs and drug takers. Concerns were also expressed about the impact of drug policies on the private sphere of leisure and the home. However, despite its obvious panoptic intentions, my data also indicate that in practice the drug test is a flawed surveillance technology, limited to the time of its physical enactment and affected by various factors including the frequency with which it is conducted. The data likewise indicate the possibility of beating the test via the use of masking agents, for example. Overall, although methods of resistance did seem to develop alongside increasingly stringent testing procedures, due to its apparent flaws respondents were relatively apathetic towards the test and it seemed to have little substantive impact on their behaviour.