Teams, Control, Cooperation and Resistance in New Workplaces
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The study of work teams has captured the attention of academics and practitioners throughout the latter stages of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. There has been much debate and one could be forgiven for thinking that we 'know' the answers. However, there are still substantial gaps in our knowledge of the practical operations of work teams. The are many complications involved in the study of work teams, including the lack of suitable and consistently used definitions and the failure amongst researchers to distinguish between the nature of different forms of teamworking. Furthermore, the labelling of formal work groups is rather ambiguous, even clichÃ©d. Academics and practitioners hold different perceptions about what makes a team and much of the literature reflects production processes within manufacturing organisations. With the growing size of the service economy further research must be undertaken to understand teams within this context. On the basis of these difficulties, one may expect that it is impossible to compare teams that exist in different organisations, different product markets, different labour markets and indeed, different sectors of the economy. However, reflecting upon earlier industrial sociology that compares diverse industries this thesis makes such a comparison. A Government-owned call centre and a food-processing organisation are compared throughout this thesis. Both are smaller worksites of larger organisations. The intent of this thesis is to examine such diverse teams to consider how teams influence factors such as control, cooperation and resistance within organisations. This thesis was developed to consider all employee actions in the workplace. This includes actions that would be viewed by management as positive and actions that would be considered by management as deviant or negative. Hence, a research methodology was required that was able to investigate actions that occur below the surface of formal and consensual rules and uncover any covert actions that were present in the workplace. To investigate such actions it was essential for the researcher to develop relationships with the research subjects that allowed a free exchange of information. Consequently, an ethnographic case study method was determined to be the most appropriate form of data collection. With the majority of fieldwork taking place over a period of eight months, the researcher was able to uncover some interesting actions in each workplace. Hence, a contribution to the literature can be made considering employee acts of resistance in new workplaces that are not changing to, but begin with a team structure. This thesis investigates how work teams influence the level of control, cooperation and resistance within new organisations. It has been found that the work teams have little clear influence on aspects of worker control; this is primarily driven by managerial strategy. Where management maintain a hierarchical decision-making structure (even if it is flatter than the structure could be), then limited control will be devolved to the members of the work teams. The levels of both cooperation and resistance on the other hand are influenced primarily by the amount of off-task time that the team members have. Where employees have a greater level of off-task time, they have the scope and opportunity to engage in higher levels of cooperative acts, as well as higher levels of resistance. Furthermore, this thesis adds support to the notion that teams can exist in organisations without there being a high level of teamworking present. Teams in these organisations are a structure of social organisation and managerial control rather than employee empowerment. The notion of the managerially constructed work team seems to have some longevity and hence, cannot be completely dismissed as a managerial fad.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Griffith Business School