Hingst, Raymond D. and Lowe, Kevin B. (2007) On the compatibility of Taylorism, targets, technology and teams - evidence from a US Call Centre. In: 7th International Business Research Conference, 3 - 6 Dec 2007, Sydney, Australia.
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Taylorism, targets and technology form a potent mix in call centres where groups of individuals are asked to perform as “teams”. In this paper we explore how ‘task’ oriented concepts interact with the ‘interpersonal relationship’ realm in an environment where group life dominates the notional foundation of a call centre’s organisational structure. Tuckman’s four stage model of sequential group development serves as the theoretical lens through which the role ‘teams’ play in the working environment of a large call centre is examined. Our analysis of structured interviews conducted in an outbound, financial services call centre in the southern United States reveals the mechanisms by which agents have interpreted their ‘team charter’ to focus on individual achievement of increased remuneration levels. The interplay between these variables indicate that reward mechanisms associated with simple Taylorist targets, imposed on the entry level call centre agents, mitigate against meaningful group development. The advancement through promotion based on individual performance to more challenging, less target based work, is in sharp contrast to their initial training period where ‘team building’ is an essential ingredient of skills acquisition.
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