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A TALE OF ""O"": On Being Different in an Organization by Rosabeth Moss with Barry A. Stein Kanter

A TALE OF ""O"": On Being Different in an Organization

By

Pub Date: June 25th, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row

A picture book about X's and O's and how ""stere-O-typing"" takes place in any work organization. The X's are people found in large numbers, the O's stand for those who are scarce; and the O's, as Professor Kanter (Sociology, Yale) and her collaborator spell out for us, will appear different simply because they are so few. ""If you've ever felt different from the people around you, for any reason--sex, race, age, size, religion, language, job or technical specialty--you'll know what we mean."" What they mean is an oversimplified version of the theory earlier presented in Kanter's Men and Women of the Corporation, here stripped of its logical justifications, supportive evidence, and illuminating detail. Instead, we find full-page diagrams of interacting X's and O's and cutesy commentary such as ""Being the Only or representative O also gives the O an X-tra job to do: serving as spokes O . . . the O might be sent off to public events as a show O."" Logically enough, this results in ""Overload,"" and so the poor O responds in one of three ways: Overachievement (becoming a superstar O), trying to look like an X (but ""the X's don't always X-cept this""), or simply trying to avoid the competition (""Behind every great X is an O""). None of the above effectively solves the problem, however (""These pulls and tugs sometimes can make the O feel like a yO-yO""), for true change will have occurred only when ""sO-sO O's get the same chance as un-X-traordinary X's."" Theory thus glides by like so many bumper stickers: in contrast to the previous book, the large work organization appears as not a bad place at all if only X's and O's would focus on what they share in common. ""With more O's given a real chance. . . with X's aware of their own behavior and its impact on the O's. . . we call all stop playing set parts and get back to our real work."" So, through pictures and proverbs reminiscent of the therapeutic Games People Play, genre sexism and racism are effectively neutralized: the message of Men and Women of the Corporation is changed by the medium. A placebo for non-readers at both the managerial and non-managerial levels.