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City of Mississauga Sign Shop Subculture


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A disturbing photograph appeared in newspapers in June, 2010. It showed two City of Mississauga employees bound with duct tape and lying face to face. The photo was a still from a video given to police by Alex Juani, an employee in the transportation and works department for the city. Juani is one of over 20 employees based in the sign shop who install and repair street signs and paint traffic lines. Investigation uncovered a number of incidents amongst the sign shop employees. These included employees having their bodies, legs and arms bound with duct tape and others throwing water balloons at them; an employee being bound with duct tape, put on the back of a truck and sent through a carwash; and employees marking birthdays by spanking the person, sometimes until they were bruised and humiliated. Workers claimed that the supervisor instigated many of the incidents and they would happen two or three times a week.

In the end, no charges were laid but two supervisors from the sign shop were suspended without pay and required to submit apologies. The suspensions occurred only after public and council outrage over the original slap on the wrist given to them – an order to take sensitivity training and a letter in their personnel files. No charges were laid because, as the police chief explained, police could find no victims in the situation. He said all participants had been interviewed and claimed they had willingly participated. He described what happened as lunch-hour frat house stuff and suggested the incidents were really a labour relations issue, not a criminal matter.

Juani saw the situation differently. “I can assure you it’s more than horseplay. It’s oppression. We live under fear.” He believes that people were afraid to complain, and felt they had to participate. “(The other workers) just go along with it, as did I…I did it because I was told to do it” , adding that he feared he would be next if he refused to participate. At the time of the public revelation of the incidents, Juani had been on stress leave for months. Another city employee, who had worked at the plant for 27 years, said he heard about the abuse many months before. “Everybody talked about it. My question is, why didn’t they fight back…I guess they had no choice. They were overpowered.”

1. The practice of duct taping employees is an example of which of the following?
a. A value
b. An artifact
c. A basic assumption
d. A triangulation

2. Leaders play a role in shaping subcultures like the sign shop one.
a. True
b. False

3. If the duct taping activities are done to punish employees who violate group norms, what kind of rite does the duct taping represent?
a. Rite of passage
b. Rite of renewal
c. Rite of degradation
d. Rite of conflict reduction

4. Sign shop employees would likely have learned about the subculture as part of anticipatory socialization.
a. True
b. False

5. Suppose the sign shop supervisors declare that they value teamwork and mutual respect. Then they encourage employees to engage in humiliating activities. What is the ‘teamwork and mutual respect’ value in this instance?
a. An espoused value
b. An enacted value
c. A ‘fit’ value
d. A socialization value

6. Subcultures, like the one observed in the sign shop, have the potential to affect performance.
a. True.
b. False

7. Knowing what we have read about the subculture of the sign shop, what does this tell us about the organizational culture of the City of Mississauga?
a. The general municipal culture cannot be a strongly functional one.
b. It must condone and encourage similar behaviour as part of the City’s organizational culture.
c. The municipal culture must be headed by a leader who fails to pay attention to the actions of its subunits.
d. Nothing – the sign shop culture could be aligned with the overall culture or could be a counterculture opposing the larger group’s norms.

8. A sign shop employee`s fit with the City of Mississauga’s overall organizational culture has much more impact on their job satisfactions than the employee`s fit with the sign shop subculture.
a. True.
b. False

9. Juani does not accept the sign shop subculture. What does this mean?
a. Juani would be an outsider in any subculture.
b. Juani does not truly understand the subculture’s values.
c. The sign shop’s efforts to socialize him were unsuccessful.
d. None of the sign shop employees really accepted the sign shop culture.

10. It would be difficult but not impossible to change the sign shop subculture.
a. True.
b. False.

11. Suppose the sign shop subculture was investigated by having the employees complete a self-report instrument that assesses the operating and technical norms in the areas of task support, task innovation, social relationships and personal freedom. What technique is being used?
a. Kilmann-Saxton Culture-Gap Survey
b. Organizational culture Inventory
c. Rites Assessment
d. Triangulation

12. Which of the following would likely happen if attempts were made to alter the sign shop’s subculture?
a. Changing behaviour through rewards and punishments would guarantee that the underlying values will change.
b. Since employees are conscious of their values and the consequences of those cultural values, effective change would depend on inspired persuasion.
c. A focus on the formally structured positions rather than informal social networks would be the key to understanding and changing the culture.
d. Consistency in communication, including the leaders modeling the new values, would be an important component in the change effort’s success.

  • SubjectBusiness
  • TopicOrganizational Behavior
  • Difficulty LevelCollege/University
  • Answer has attachmentsNo
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Tom Stokes
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