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Can self-managing teams be truly cross-functional?: gender barriers to a “new” division of labor

The Transformation of Work

ISBN: 978-0-76230-766-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-097-5

Publication date: 14 March 2001


The wide use of self-managing teams is creating a “new division of labor” where team members are expected to learn tasks beyond their own in order to perform cross-functionally. Interviews with members of four service-oriented, mixed-sex self-managing teams revealed that while teams recognized and discussed the importance of learning each others' job tasks, barriers to fully cross-functional task sharing emerged when sex segregated occupations were brought together. Although cross-training and cross-functionality are generally seen as central to the greater efficiency and effectiveness expectations for teams, full reallocation of work tasks was impeded as men in technical professions resisted taking on less-skilled, feminized clerical and relational work. We propose that for self-managing teams to become truly cross-functional, organizations should take into account gender (as well as class) biases that can present an obstacle to task integration in teams, particularly when masculine and feminine - highskilled and low-skilled - occupations are combined.


Ollilainen, M. and Rothschild, J. (2001), "Can self-managing teams be truly cross-functional?: gender barriers to a “new” division of labor", Vallas, S. (Ed.) The Transformation of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 141-164.



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