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The purpose of this paper is to revisit discussions on managerial work, seeking to re-examine the front-line service manager’s position within the service triangle, and…
The purpose of this paper is to revisit discussions on managerial work, seeking to re-examine the front-line service manager’s position within the service triangle, and bring forward questions of agency that remain under-developed by scholars. Challenging the assumed unitarist and “consensus” standing point in organizations it recognizes that front-line managers, similarly to their subordinates, resist corporate demands and unveils stories of “battles” and disengagement towards their role, providing a rich empirical agenda regarding managerial misbehaviour. In order to explore front-line managers’ agency issues, the paper adopts the framework of the dimensions of misbehaviour, as developed by Ackroyd and Thompson (1999), to capture and to better describe and understand the recalcitrant agential practices by front-line managers.
The paper calls on qualitative data from two case study organizations in the Cyprus food-retail sector. In total, 46 interviews took place with participants across different departments and different management levels. This aimed for a better and deeper understanding of the research problem through understanding of the different perspectives.
The evidence reveals the intensification of FLSMs’ work and their feelings of pressure. FLSMs, however, did not stay apathetic and have utilized tactics to oppose the increasing workload and the expansion of their role. The paper classifies these tactics using the four dimensions of misbehaviour (Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999), namely, appropriation of time; work, product and identity. It shows that FLSMs not only resist corporate demands, like their subordinates, but also devised practices which are similar to workers. The data also reveal a variety in actions of misbehaviour between FLSMs depending on the level of customer interaction and their mobility on the shop floor.
Students of managerial work overlooked the political realities of management and the contested nature of (front-line service) management work. As this study has shown FLSMs across the shop floor strongly identify more with “front-line employees” than senior management, protecting their own interests within the employment relationship via oppositional actions and disengagement. FLSM is, of course, in an agency relationship with capital; however, this neglects the heterogeneity in interests at different levels of management. This paper shifts the focus of management research away from the traditional agency argument and discusses FLSMs as “misbehaving agents”. It challenges the assumed unitarist and “consensus” standing point for FLSMs in organizations and calls HRM scholars to embrace a pluralist analysis in line management research.
This research shows that FLSMs misbehave as an expression of discontent towards the expansion and intensification of their role. Yet, the data reveal variation in the organization of FLSMs’ work across the shop floor and consequently variation in their actions of misbehaviour. This suggests that it is erroneous to presume a similar labour process for these managers and/or over-generalize their battling actions. HR practitioners will need to re-examine the roles of FLSMs in organizations, recognize the variety of interests within management, step away from rhetoric discourses of unproblematic devolvement of HR and managerial tasks to the front-line and appropriately review, redesign and re-organize front-line managerial work.
Although research has fruitfully located the powerlessness of front-line managers as a central theme in their analysis, the complexity of the front-line management position within the social relations of interactive service work and their “logic of action” within their labour process remains a relatively marginal theme in research. Indeed, FLSMs’ position within the triangle, where managerial work is subject to degradation and trilateral conflicting dynamics and their battles within their own labour process, still remains under-explored. This study addresses this research lacuna focusing on the FLSMs’ experiences on the front-end and their actions of misbehaviour within their labour process.
The paper brings forward questions of agency that remain under-developed by scholars and unveils “stories of battles”. It discusses FLSMs as “misbehaving agents” a question that is only superficially addressed in resistance and managerial studies. This paper challenges the embedded HRM unitarist assumption that FLSMs are conscientiously agents of the capital and reveals evidence suggesting the plurality of interests across management. HRM scholars, especially those discussed line managers as HRM partners, have overestimated FLSMs’ identification with senior management and the strategic goals of the organization. As this study has shown FLSMs across the shop floor strongly identify with “front-line employees”, protecting their own interests within the employment relationship via oppositional actions and disengagement.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of line managers in managing attendance at work in the lean regime of grocery retailing. The increasing…
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of line managers in managing attendance at work in the lean regime of grocery retailing. The increasing competitiveness within the sector, coupled with the sophisticated control systems in place put pressure on managers to keep labour costs low. Attendance, therefore, becomes a critical factor, particularly as staffing levels become leaner. Taking this into account, it is necessary to understand the parameters of the line managers’ role in managing attendance, especially within the lean food retail market and the antagonistic terrain of the supermarket shop floor. The paper discusses the impact of lean retailing on line managers’ authority and provides a fresh sociological analysis regarding their role in managing attendance, offering insights into managerial practices on the UK supermarket shop floor.
The paper draws on qualitative research evidence from two case study grocery retail organizations in the UK. It reports on 44 semi-structured interviews and provides a multi-level analysis aiming to understand the different perspectives on the problem examined.
The paper reveals the existence of a centralized absence management policy and highlights the greater involvement of line managers in this procedure. Line managers though were subjected to forces of bureaucratic control, intensification and degradation of their work. Despite having an active role within the attendance management process and high responsibility for the implementation of rules and procedures handed down by head office, they had limited authority over the process. Line managers perceived the latter as routine and a box-ticking exercise and had developed coping tactics to deal with the control from above.
This paper provides practical and theoretical considerations over the role of line management in the labour process, investigating their role in managing attendance at work within the lean terrain of food retailing. This research contributes to the ongoing academic discussions related to the devolvement of HR responsibilities to the line, highlighting the great involvement of line managers in the absence policy. It also provides a sociological perspective over line managers’ authority and discretion in managing attendance, revealing that they were subjected to direct and bureaucratic control within their role in attendance management. However, the research reveals that line managers were not passive in the face of direct control from above and had developed tactics to cope with the monotony and the repetition of this process, attempting to somehow escape the top-down control they were subjected to.