This article examines teamworking in a call centre and how this is shaped for the employees by an increase in technical control, the dynamics of emotional labour and gender politics. The research is based on a case study of call centre work organisation in different sectors, and this paper draws specifically on ethnographic research on two teams and their managers in broadcasting. Drawing on theoretical insights, it suggests that teamworking results in a fundamental contradiction involving a "soft" discourse versus a regime of increasing managerial control. Participation is measured against Thompson and Wallace's three-dimensional notion of participation, showing that employees have little discretion over the way work is organised. The normative aspect of team organisation accommodates managerial coping strategies in conditions of staff shortage via numerical flexibility. However, management's efforts to disguise control are resisted by employees who transform workplace discourses into an oppositional politics, shattering the illusion of unity promoted by the pundits of team organisation.
Personnel Review – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 1, 2002
Keywords: Teamwork; Management control; Gender; Participation; Resistance
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