The office tyrant - social control through e-mail

Celia T. Romm, Nava Pliskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The changing role of technology in the virtual workplace has been accompanied by a proliferation of research activity focusing initially on the technical aspects and, more recently, on the social and political aspects of the diffusion process, including power and politics. This paper builds on the work of Kling and Markus on power and politics in IT, extending it to e-mail and more specifically, to the use of e-mail for petty tyranny. Reviews the literature on petty tyranny and its implications to IT and e-mail. Presents a case study in which e-mail was used by a department chair to manipulate, control, and coerce employees. The discussion links the events in the case with the literature on petty tyranny. In conclusion, demonstrates that e-mail features make it amenable to political abuse and elaborates on the more general, theoretical, practical and ethical implications from this research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalInformation Technology and People
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1999


  • Case studies
  • Control
  • Electronic mail
  • Management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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