This chapter explores some of the challenges and tribulations of studying the hidden and hitherto unresearched world of work in the New South Wales (Australia) cleaning industry. The findings and analysis presented here are informed by my research into employment relations, labour management and the organisation of work in the NSW commercial cleaning industry (Ryan, 2007). This research used primarily a case study of an industry exemplar, and made extensive use of participant observation to obtain evidence on the perceived realities of work and organisation for those on the front line of cleaning work - the cleaners and their supervisors - and to understand how they make sense of their working world. The discussions and findings presented in this chapter support the use of an ethnographic approach to work, and provide some guidance as to how a participant observation study might be carried out and what might be found through the use of this method.
Method in the Madness: Research Stories You Won't Read in Textbooks p. 27-38