The Employment Relationship and Inequality: How and Why Changes in Employment Practices are Reshaping Rewards in Organizations

By Matthew BidwellForrest BriscoeIsabel Fernandez-MateoAdina Sterling
Academy of Management Annals
June2013 Vol. 7 Issue 1 Pages 61-121.

We review the literature on recent changes to US employment relationships, focusing on the causes of those changes and their consequences for inequality. The US employment model has moved from a closed, internal system to one more open to external markets and institutional pressures. We describe the growth of short-term employment relationships, contingent work, outsourcing, and performance pay as well as the success of social identity movements in shaping employment benefits. In doing so, we address the role of organizations as sites of conflict within and between stakeholder groups, examining how struggles among stakeholders have contributed to reorganizing employment relationships. We also examine how these changes have affected inequality by (i) influencing the distribution of rewards within organizations (via changes in the determination of pay and benefits and in the allocation of workers to jobs) and (ii) altering, on a macro level, how rewards are distributed among different stakeholders. In closing, we identify areas where future work is urgently needed.