Emerging From Turbulence

Leon Grunberg and Sarah Moore Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 206 pages, $37.42

The old heritage Boeing Co. is dead, and Seattle-area employees are struggling to come to terms with the colder corporation in its place, according to candid interviews in "Emerging from Turbulence: Boeing and Stories of the American Workplace Today." For Boeing veterans, the merger with McDonnell Douglas remains a raw wound, while younger employees know only the current reality, University of Puget Sound professors Leon Grunberg and Sarah Moore write. In hourslong interviews, 36 Boeing employees from engineers to business staff provided frank, emotional, first-person accounts of their work lives. One 48-year-old machinist with 25 years at Boeing sounds like a dream employee. A driven, high-end machinist collaborating with engineers inside the Seattle development center, he loves his work. Yet even he found his faith dented by Boeing's outsourcing of skilled work and its shortchanging of the workforce.

The authors lay out the broader economic factors beyond the 1997 McDonnell Douglas merger that have played a role in the changes. They also suggest that the dramatic shift in the jetmaker's corporate culture — a focus on cost-cutting, a hard line with unions, outsourcing of work and more — reflects parallel changes across corporate America.

Boeing executives eager to inspire an engaged workforce might want to set aside their management books to study closely this account of what their employees think and feel.