Call centres are high‐pressure work environments characterised by routinisation, scripting, computer‐based monitoring and intensive performance targets. This promises a series of business advantages, but also risks counterproductive outcomes. Drawing on evidence from ethnographic field data, it is suggested that both desired and risked outcomes are mediated by personal modes of coping and organisational sustaining mechanisms. A central concern is to explore the underlying assumptions of call centre design and management, and to establish whether or to what extent information systems have been constructed as learning sites or behavioural control sites. When behavioural control is a primary goal this introduces a climate of resistance, further inflated by the culture of measurement and enforcement that is likely to ensue. In this environment, agent, manager and organisation become defensive and the main outcome is a destructive crisis of trust that creates important and difficult implications for the capacity to learn.
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