Slipping into functional stupidity – the bifocality of organizational compliance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Drawing on ethnographical work at the Swedish Public Employment Service, this article contextualizes functional stupidity in relation to other types of organizational compliance. Rather than seeing stupidity as a personality trait, I argue that it should be regarded as a transient unreflective mode of compliance one may yield to for a number of reasons but also reflect on in hindsight. Based on the empirical material, I distinguish 10 ‘stupidity rationales’ emanating from reflective types of compliance with which employees can motivate the practice of functional stupidity. Functional stupidity can be seen as the modus operandi of ego-dystonic compliance we enter in order to endure long hours of imposed work assignments we would rather not perform.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • conflict, motivation, organizational theory, psychology, stress
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-210
Number of pages26
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch