Learning how to break rules: An exploration of why organizations still function despite dysfunctional rules

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Master Thesis
Larsson, Johan
Ramstedt, Julia
Rule breaking in organizations has traditionally been seen as deconstructive actions by angry or self-interested employees. An emerging research area is seeking to highlight a type of rule breaking behaviour that may bene t organizations. Some authors label this type of rule breaking \pro social rule breaking" and it refers to when employees break rules for such reasons as saving time or money for their company, or preserving customer relations. Instead of antagonizing the rule breaking employee, the pro-social rule breaking research area opens up for new perspectives on employees' motivations for breaking rules. The pro-social rule breaking has contributed to the organizational research area by acknowledging that rule-breaking behaviour occurs frequently in organizations, and that employees who break rules are motivated by things other than self-interest. Organizational rules are created by some part of the organization that perceives itself as having a better grasp of schedules and constraints than the employees who receive the rules. Dismissing rule breaking behaviour as isolated actions motivated by selfinterest leads rule-makers to have an incomplete understanding of how their rules are interpreted at the receiving end. This is of current importance to the IT industry where many companies are in the process of transitioning from waterfall to agile methodologies. This thesis is aimed at contributing to the emerging cause of acknowledging rule-breaking actions as potentially constructive. The report accounts for a multiple case study with the purpose of investigating how newcomers to organizations learn how to break rules. The research purpose made it possible for us to discuss rules, rule-interpretations and communication of rules and rule-breaking with new employees who had recently been included in the organization's social constructs. The study nds that employees most often learn how to break rules through socialization, and mostly through observing other employees deviating from rules. Rules are in many cases broken because they are found to be inadequate or even misleading in a certain situations. Employees are reluctant to changing a rule even if it is frequently broken; they nd that rules are guiding even if broken.The study also concludes that rule breaking is rarely spoken of in organizations. A rulemaker cannot teach rule breaking without changing the rule receiver's interpretation of the rule. The interpretation of the rule controls behaviour in relation to the rule. This phenomena is attributed to a social mechanism which we label \the interpretation system". The interpretation system is a part of the norms within a group that tell members how to interpret rules. By approaching rule breaking as objective researchers we were able to uncover how employees interpret rules; information which is normally obscured to the rule-designers within an organization. This is perhaps the most valuable contribution of this thesis.
Data- och informationsvetenskap, Informations- och kommunikationsteknik, Computer and Information Science, Information & Communication Technology
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