Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Small groups, Storage and moving trade -- Oregon -- Portland, Ambivalence



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, x, 130 leaves)


The research problem discussed in the thesis is generally concerned with the investigation of a group of men who work as furniture movers. The problem is focused on the dynamic interplay of status equality and status differentiation as contradictions that render harmony and dissension as common group denominators. Three questions were asked. First, are there consistent ways of behaving while working as a furniture mover? Second, if consistent ways of behavior do exist, how are they related to the notions of status equality and status differentiation? Third, if this latter relationship should exist, can harmony and dissent be conceptualized as common occurrences? Four categories of behavior were found to be quite consistent from job to job. They can be described as 'acts.' The acts that were found are coordination, seriousness, humor and advice. With skill or technique of furniture moving being underlying and related criteria for professionalism, the acts are considered by the movers as being appropriate professional behavior while on a moving job. These acts have both a rigid and a flexible quality. At first glance this statement sounds contradictory; however, it was found that the rigidity of acts arises out of the expectations the movers have while working on a given job, while the flexibility of acts is a result of variations between jobs. These qualities have two important consequences: First, the workers perceive these acts as important in raising their occupational status with customers. In turn, by working together in establishing these acts (some of which have originated with management and others which have originated from the work group itself), they are defining boundaries for all of them to act within. By acting toward these acts, the workers are compromising formal distinctions which management has imposed, and consequently are nearing status equality. Second, due to variations in structural characteristics of different types of moving jobs,individual moods, team moods, and customers, the job or situation in which the job is taking place changes. The acts still remain, but the kinds of things that a mover may do with an act changes. This maneuverability with an act offers the worker a chance to do something different from job to job, or at moments, during a job. In other words, he may be able to experience status differentiation. The contradictions of status equality and status differentiation presented in this thesis are discussed in terms of observed alternative lines of action that a mover may choose' to initiate. Harmony appears if the worker chooses to stay with the professional acts while working, and, in turn, attempts to realize both status equality and status differentiation through the acts and succeeds. The acts themselves strain toward status equality and away from status differentiation. Unless a mover was exceptionally brilliant during a job (with both skill and acts), he had a more difficult time experiencing status differentiation than status equality. Hence, a mover dissenting from the professional acts was not an uncommon sight. The worker may feel confined and stifled by not being himself and therefore act too idiosyncratically in relation to what other workers consider to be professional behavior. Another mode of dissent was observed that arose from the neglect of acts. When this neglect or blockage of the act was apparent, the dissent involved a larger number of movers. The movers would dissent from the acts but for purposes of establishing or re-establishing them. The movers do not; view dissent as being right or wrong, good or bad. Instead, the workers view dissent as both good and bad, right and wrong; it depends upon the context in which the dissent is occurring. At moments, dissent may appear quite natural; at other times, dissent may give rise to fighting, antagonism and sanctioning. Whatever the type of dissent, it is a part of a composite picture of men working together at being furniture movers. Dissent itself is not considered deviant.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Sociology

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