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Scientific paper


Watercooler Democracy: Rumors and Transparency in a Cooperative Workplace

Katherine Sobering

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Scientific paper

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Work and Occupations


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Abstract: This article examines how rumors impact democracy and transparency in a cooperative workplace. Although literature on rumors generally analyzes them as negative to workplace culture, the author argues that rumors constitute a critical aspect of democratic participation. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a worker-recuperated business in Argentina, the author shows how members use rumors to incite deliberation, participate in decision-making, question organizational policy, and oversee managerial authority. Although informal communication at work can create uncertainty, confusion, and concerns about efficiency, the author finds that rumors can also increase worker influence, encourage organizational accountability, and ultimately protect against the consolidation of power.

Work and Occupations, July 2019

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