Brattleboro Area Hospice (BAH) is a non-profit organization which in 1992 decided to eliminate the position of Executive Director, choosing instead to divide the responsibilities of the position among four core staff members. In Search of a Democratic Workplace: A Case Study of Brattleboro Area Hospice explores the following questions, using the research methods of secondary data analysis, direct observation, interviews and personal experiences:

Has the restructuring of Brattleboro Area Hospice into a democratic workplace been effective?

a. What is BAH’s present organizational structure, and how does it function?

b. Why did BAH choose this structure?

c. What are the expectations of staff regarding this structure?

d. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of structure?

e. Are staff expectations being met despite the disadvantages?

f. In addition, during the course of my research a subquestion emerged that will also be discussed: How does the organizational design of BAH compare to other non-profits in the local area and in the state of Vermont?

In a society that believes authority and the “bottom line” are of the utmost importance, this small non-profit managed to buck the norm and transition into a non-hierarchical structure, valuing both process and product. A democratic workplace was achieved by the organization due to a unique combination of circumstances: a predominately female staff and board of directors, a mission encompassing the hospice movement’s philosophy of valuing the individual, a commitment to the principles of egalitarianism and collaboration a board and staff willing to spend the time, energy and attention to implementing these principles and an independent funding base that allows the organization to withstand outside pressure.

In striving toward a more cooperative and humane environment and away from conditional organizational design, BAH is an excellent example of how the values of a democratic workplace can be translated into action.


Business Administration, Management, and Operations