Bother me only if the client complains: control and resistance in home-based telework in India

Dharma Raju Bathini (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, India)
George Mathew Kandathil (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India)

Employee Relations: The International Journal

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 25 October 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore the link between operations of organization control and workers’ response to them in case of telework, a technology-embedded new way of working.


The authors adopted an interpretive approach to explore control and home-based teleworkers’ response in the Indian information technology industry. Interviews and non-participant observations were analysed using constructivist grounded theory.


The discourse of “telework as a privilege” served as a basis for normative control, helping managers exercise increased technocratic control. Combined with the discourse of “self-responsibility to client”, it led teleworkers to self-subjugate to long/unsocial work hours. However, the simultaneous exercise of technocratic and normative controls resulted in an inconsistency, creating space for teleworker’s resistance to technocratic control. Nonetheless, resistance to technocratic control ironically reinforced normative control.


The authors contribute to the recent discussion on compatibility and coherence of multiple control modes, and their relationship to resistance. The authors show how workers’ selves can be compatible with one control mode while being incompatible with other modes. The authors argue that when workers’ experience incoherence between control modes, they can appropriate the logic underlying compatible control mode(s) to resist incompatible control mode(s). Further, the authors demonstrate how resistance to incompatible control mode(s) can ironically reinforce compatible control mode(s), and thus explicate the micro-processes of control-resistance dialectic. Advancing the emergent understanding of resistance, the authors show that resistance is an exercise of strategic counter-power that seeks to exploit incoherence between control modes and inconsistencies between actions and rhetoric.



Bathini, D. and Kandathil, G. (2019), "Bother me only if the client complains: control and resistance in home-based telework in India", Employee Relations: The International Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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