Coffee shop restroom graffiti and their implications for management inquiries [study]

“My intention is to explore what happens when an organization’s bathroom becomes the locus of heated debate and cynical resignation. In contrast to viewing this rarely studied space as irrelevant to culture and identity, I argue that addressing such a space as culturally important has strong implications for understanding how authorship is constituted in organizations.“

So explains Professor Gazi Islam (now at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, France) in an article entitled : Backstage Discourse and the Emergence of Organizational Voices: Exploring Graffiti and Organization. (Journal of Management Inquiry, Volume: 19 issue: 3, page(s): 246-260)

The professor examined the dense and polyphonic communicative acts – in the form of graffiti – that had been found in the bathroom (restroom) of a locally-owned coffee shop in a medium-sized US city.

Graffiti were recorded approximately bi-weekly over 3 years, resulting in 338 separate entries of graffiti texts. Which were subsequently incorporated into a working categorization scheme based on their discursive functions.

“The phenomena I attempt to examine exist in dark corners of the organization but contain novel and interesting information, novel because seldom studied, and interesting, because they have managed to flourish, even in secrecy. These phenomena are organizational in the sense that civil society is political, that is, as spaces where meanings are established that do not enter the formal organizational registers. It is my hope that such a choice of research site, with its unique attributes, will open a door for future research into the more private spheres of organizations.”


Research research by Martin Gardiner