This purpose of this paper is to use the concepts of performance and emotional labour to shed new light on the skills workers use on two workflows in one call centre. In addition, the paper demonstrates how different workflows impact on workers everyday emotional experiences and wellbeing.
Using an auto-ethnographic approach to data collection the paper provides insights by focusing on both the self and others as objects of research. The underpinning theoretical inspiration is drawn from Labour Process Theory but considering the interactive nature of front-line call centre work, it adopts Goffman's (1959) dramaturgical concepts and draws on micro-sociological analyses of the labour process, particularly Hochschild (1983).
The case study illustrates how workers use social skills, through the performance of emotional labour, to different extents on contrasting workflows. The concept of performance is also used to demonstrate how management rely on worker's social skills to deliver fast and quality customer service. Contrary to other research, this study finds that the greater time front-line workers spend on calls and the wider scope they have for exercising discretion does not necessarily mean they experience greater levels of satisfaction and emotional wellbeing. Rather, the workflow with the tightest scripting and shortest call cycles – which inhibit the need to perform emotional labour – offered the greatest protection from the emotional demands of the job.
This paper is the first to apply Goffman's theatrical metaphors and concepts of performativity to unpack the nature of front-line call centre workers’ skills.
Alexander Clarke, J. (2014), "What a performance! the influence of call centre workflows on workers’ skills and emotional wellbeing", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 259-274. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOE-12-2012-0060Download as .RIS
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