Social Class and Organizations: A Strange Combination?
It's useless to deny it: being rich or poor matters in the workplace as well. When an individual enters a company's door, they bring along their entire history, including their social position. Based on the policies they adopt and the organizational climate they build day by day, organizations can either dilute or amplify these differences, which intersect with other aspects of identity, increasing or diminishing the potential stigma that weighs on the individual.
The new issue of Economia & Management dedicated to the theme of poverty has recently been published. The current geopolitical context and its economic consequences (inflation, above all) have exacerbated social inequalities and “class” differences. I put the term "class" in quotation marks because there is a wide debate in the literature regarding its definition, classification, and so on, which we won't go into here. In this context, I would like to take it for granted and instead draw attention to the fact that the concept of "social class" is becoming the subject of ample reflection in management studies.
What influence does class membership have on individuals' fate within an organization? In a recent article published in the Journal of Management,  the authors have little doubt (and there is no reason to have any): when an individual enters a company's door, they bring along their entire history, including their class membership. Through small gestures, whether awkward or not, in their way of dressing and speaking, and in their cultural preferences, they display their habitus, which is their position in the social space and can either an advantage or a disadvantage in the workplace. These "class" signals are in fact used and interpreted by other members of an organization to loosen or strengthen the boundaries between groups, activating in-group and out-group dynamics.
Class influences the opportunities and expectations of workers, their way of interacting and behaving, and their interpretation of the roles they hold within an organization. On the other hand, a worker's social class membership can influence how their skills are selected and evaluated, and thus their chances of development and career progression. Being part of a social class can enable an individual to enter or be excluded from relationship networks (the famous male and female networks), which accelerate access to leadership positions (see, for example, the case of boards of directors), thereby generating the exclusion of other individuals, who may have with similar skills.
The relevance of social class had already been highlighted in a 2012 survey conducted by the former Diversity Management Lab at SDA Bocconi. It was identified as a cause of indirect discrimination by 16% of respondents and as a cause of direct discrimination by 19% of respondents. Obviously, though, it is important to note that the respondents, being insiders of the organization, did not take into account exclusion during the selection process.
Therefore, being rich or poor also matters in the workplace. Based on the policies they adopt (such as work-life balance) and the organizational climate they build day by day, organizations can either dilute or amplify these differences, which intersect with other aspects of identity (such as gender, ethnicity, etc.), thereby increasing or diminishing the potential stigma that weighs on the individual.
 Kish-Gephart, J. J., Moergen, K. J. N., Tilton, J. D., & Gray, B. (2023). Social Class and Work: A Review and Organizing Framework. Journal of Management, 49(1), 509–565. https://doi.org/10.1177/01492063221076822
 Bourdieu, P. (1979) La distinction. Critique sociale du Jugdment. Paris, Les editions des Minuit.
 Cuomo S. Mapelli, A. Un posto in Cda. Egea. Milan.
 Basaglia S., Cuomo, S. Simonella Z. (2023) L’organizzazione inclusiva. Egea, Milan, p. 218.
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