Testing the Survey Method: Continuity and Change in British Industrial Relations

Morris, Tim and Wood, Stephen (1991) Testing the Survey Method: Continuity and Change in British Industrial Relations. Work, Employment and Society, 5 (2). pp. 259-282.


Throughout much of the 1980s, a picture of institutional continuity was drawn by many industrial relations researchers from large-scale surveys, which appeared at odds with reports of substantial change that other accounts documented. This paper explores how differences in the research instruments used may contribute to discrepancies in the amount of change which has been recorded, by examining the results of interview material from managers in 15 firms which had also participated in a survey of industrial relations, the Warwick Enterprise Survey. Our findings were broadly similar in the mapping of institutional arrangements, management organization and the distribution of responsibilities at different levels, but certain differences were also noted. The paper discusses whether these differences are reconcilable and to what extent they were a function of the different research instruments. It is argued that the focus of our open-ended interviews tended to differ from that of surveys with scope for more exploration of how managers were innovating around institutions and had changed the way institutions worked, thereby suggesting that greater change was occurring than the survey could document. In researching industrial relations the risk of surveys is that they may bias the argument towards stability if they concentrate on institutional forms and the formal locus of decision-making.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: trade unions; collective bargaining; employee relations
Subject(s): Corporate reputation
Professional services
Centre: Centre for Professional Firms
Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2011 16:37
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2018 12:55
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/1070

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