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Ratio Working Paper No. 339: Broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations: An explorative study of Swedish Labor Court cases

PublicationWorking paper
Durkheim, implicit duties and norms, Industrial relations, Labor Court decisions, Linda Weidenstedt, Lotta Stern, psychological contracts, text analysis
Ratio Working Paper No. 339
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Abstract

Little is known about what lies behind serious relational conflicts in the workplace. In this paper, we analyze conflicts emanating from perceptions of broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations as they appear in the Swedish Labor Court. Sweden is a highly regulated and formalized labor market, with high levels of unionization and collective agreement coverage. Yet in a social setting ripe with formal rules and regulation such as this, what role do informal promises and expectations have? The empirical material for this study consists of a sub-set of two years of Labor Court decisions dealing with situations where mutual consent of what has been agreed upon or what is to be expected from each other has broken down. We describe who, when and what causes workplace conflicts and provide examples of typical situations where relations break down to such an extent that the cases are taken to court. The results show some variation between employers and employees, men and women, as well as insiders and outsiders of the Swedish labor market model. Our exploration into court cases in a highly regulated and formalized labor market suggests that regardless of the amount of regulations, people build relationships that go beyond formal rules. And when they interpret and judge their social relations, they will sometimes do so differently – and sometimes the differences will cause severe conflicts. Even in Sweden.

Stern, C. & Weidenstedt, L. (2020). Broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations: An explorative study of Swedish Labor Court cases. Ratio Working Paper No 339. Stockholm: Ratio.

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Ratio Working Paper No. 339: Broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations: An explorative study of Swedish Labor Court cases
Working paperPublication
Stern, C. & Weidenstedt, L.
Publication year

2020

Published in

Ratio Working Paper

Abstract

Little is known about what lies behind serious relational conflicts in the workplace. In this paper, we analyze conflicts emanating from perceptions of broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations as they appear in the Swedish Labor Court. Sweden is a highly regulated and formalized labor market, with high levels of unionization and collective agreement coverage. Yet in a social setting ripe with formal rules and regulation such as this, what role do informal promises and expectations have? The empirical material for this study consists of a sub-set of two years of Labor Court decisions dealing with situations where mutual consent of what has been agreed upon or what is to be expected from each other has broken down. We describe who, when and what causes workplace conflicts and provide examples of typical situations where relations break down to such an extent that the cases are taken to court. The results show some variation between employers and employees, men and women, as well as insiders and outsiders of the Swedish labor market model. Our exploration into court cases in a highly regulated and formalized labor market suggests that regardless of the amount of regulations, people build relationships that go beyond formal rules. And when they interpret and judge their social relations, they will sometimes do so differently – and sometimes the differences will cause severe conflicts. Even in Sweden.

Working Paper No. 333: Balancing employment protection and what’s good for the company
Working paperPublication
Stern, C. & Weidenstedt, L.
Publication year

2020

Published in

Ratio Working Paper

Abstract

Like most developed countries, Sweden has institutionalized employment protection legislation, called LAS. LAS is interesting theoretically because parts of it are semi-coercive. The semi-coerciveness makes it possible for firms and unions under collective agreements to negotiate departures from the law, for instance regarding seniority rules and terminations due to employees’ fit and/or misconduct. In this sense, the law is more flexible than the legal text suggests. The present study explores how the semi-coercive institution of employment protection is perceived and implemented by managers of smaller manufacturing companies. The results suggest that managers support the idea of employment protection rules in principle but face a difficult balancing act in dealing with LAS. Thus, the institutional legitimacy of the law is low. LAS ends up producing local cultures of hypocrisy and pretense. The paper gives insights into how institutions aimed at producing good moral behavior sometimes end up producing the opposite.

Working Paper No. 333: Balancing employment protection and what’s good for the company
Working paperPublication
Stern, C. & Weidenstedt, L.
Publication year

2020

Published in

Ratio Working Paper

Abstract

Like most developed countries, Sweden has institutionalized employment protection legislation, called LAS. LAS is interesting theoretically because parts of it are semi-coercive. The semi-coerciveness makes it possible for firms and unions under collective agreements to negotiate departures from the law, for instance regarding seniority rules and terminations due to employees’ fit and/or misconduct. In this sense, the law is more flexible than the legal text suggests. The present study explores how the semi-coercive institution of employment protection is perceived and implemented by managers of smaller manufacturing companies. The results suggest that managers support the idea of employment protection rules in principle but face a difficult balancing act in dealing with LAS. Thus, the institutional legitimacy of the law is low. LAS ends up producing local cultures of hypocrisy and pretense. The paper gives insights into how institutions aimed at producing good moral behavior sometimes end up producing the opposite.

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