Seizing Workplace Learning Affordances in High-Pressure Work Environments

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  • Dorina Gnaur, Denmark
  • Department of Language and Business Communication
Work in call centres is often presented as a form of unskilled labour characterized by routinization, technological surveillance and tight management control aimed at reaching intensive performance targets. Beyond delivering business objectives, this control and efficiency strategy is often held to produce counterproductive effects with regard to employee well-being and the quality of customer interactions. Yet, almost contrarily, based on evidence from ethnographic field data from a call centre for sales and customer support, a particular instance of individual agency is identified as a means to transcend the structuring influence of technology and management regulation. Noticeably, such a manifestation of agency is also aligned with workplace learning when seen as active engagement in work practices. Contrary to universalistic accounts of neo-Tayloristic assembly line workplaces with high levels of emotional labour, this paper supports a more differentiated and nuanced view of tele-service workers, marked by the exercise of their subjectivity and agency. It argues that an apparently harsh work environment creates distinct conditions for rich learning and practice regeneration when populated by individuals with diverse life histories or ontogenies that influence their enactment of work with self-defined interests and identity formation pursuits being directed by their personal agency
Original languageEnglish
JournalVocations and Learning
Pages (from-to)223-238
Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Research areas

  • Workplace learning, Call centres, Learning as agentic action, Ontogeny, Work identity, Identity formation, High-pressure work environments

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