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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : European Management Journal, Volume 28, Issue 3, June 2010, Pages 208–219
Much has been written about the negative emotional experiences of customer service representatives (CSRs) within large Anglo-Saxon call centres and very little is known about the potential positive emotions involved in this form of employment. Our research, which is based on a case study of call centre CSRs within one small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME) in the Greek telecommunications sector, challenges the ‘vocal sweatshop’ image and constructs a different type of story about call centres. We explore the nature of emotion management in this workplace by looking at the context and control of emotional performances and the conditions that would guide positive work feelings. The findings illustrate the ways in which supportiveness, caring and nurturance intertwine to form a ‘humane’ and ‘understanding’ workplace. They indicate a call centre environment where work feelings are expressed as philanthropic emotions and emerge from the reciprocal social exchange in the workplace. This paper emphasises the positive side of emotion management and suggests that emotions in this study identify with work feelings rather than emotional labour.
Research on emotions in call centre organisations has generally centred on the role of emotions as forms of labour or as means to instrumental ends. Most of the studies available on the subject share Hochschild’s (1983) pessimistic concerns with the negative consequences of organisations’ attempts to shape and control employees’ emotions (cf. Deery et al., 2002, Holman et al., 2002, Mulholland, 2002, Taylor, 1998, Taylor et al., 2002 and Wickham and Collins, 2004). Their emphasis on ‘management attempts to seduce employees into loving the company, its product and its customers, creates an illustration of emotionally crippled actors’ (Bolton and Boyd, 2003:290). These accounts stress CSRs’ requirement to express organisationally desired emotions during service transactions and to display their emotional dispositions under standardised and tightly controlled work processes. They frequently draw parallels to ‘vocal sweatshops’ with ‘Big Brother’ management exercising total control (Taylor and Bain, 1999) and note the negative emotional experiences of call centre CRSs. This pessimistic line of reasoning, however, derives from studies that have focused on: (a) the coercive employment systems adopted in the call centre industry (cf. Mulholland, 2002 and Taylor and Bain, 1999); (b) the commercialisation of emotions in the workplace (cf. Holman et al., 2002 and Taylor, 1998) ignoring the concept of bounded emotionality as well as the potential philanthropic dimensions of emotion management in call centre employment; and (c) the performance of emotion work in large call centres originating from Anglo-Saxon institutional contexts (cf. Callaghan and Thompson, 2002, Korczynski, 2003, Thompson et al., 2004 and Wickham and Collins, 2004). Our research, which is based on a case study of CSRs within one call centre SME in the Greek telecommunications sector, challenges the ‘vocal sweatshop’ image and constructs a different type of story about call centres. We explored the nature of emotion management in this workplace by looking at the context and control of emotional performances and the conditions that would guide positive work feelings. Our study contributes to the current literature pertaining to emotion management in voice-to-voice interactive service work. It paints the picture of the studied call centre in a far more positive light than most of the current literature tends to. The findings indicate a ‘humane’ and ‘understanding’ workplace, which is far distant from the traditional tightly controlled and monitored ‘sweatshop’. Our research also provides valuable insights into the performance of emotion management within one SME. Despite the plethora of studies on the emotions of front-line staff (cf. Holman et al., 2002 and Korczynski, 2003), to date, CSRs’ emotions in SMEs have largely been neglected, even though there may be reasons to suggest that emotion work in SMEs may be performed quiet differently. This might be due to the loosely structured employee relations (Marlow and Patton, 2002 and Ram, 1994) and the culture of openly expressing and sharing feelings (Jayasinghe et al., 2008) in such workplaces. Our findings highlight an environment of caring where the demands of differing values and goals are comfortably accommodated within a fluid structure. The paper proceeds as follows. It begins by elucidating the theoretical insights of emotion in organisations and then reviewing contemporary research into call centre employment. Subsequently, the methodology employed in this study is discussed, leading to the presentation of the findings of rich qualitative data. The article culminates in a series of implications and the identification of a number of potentially fruitful avenues for further research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Although most other studies concerning emotions in call centres tended to focus on the negative experiences of CSRs by drawing parallels to ‘Taylorised production-lines’ and ‘vocal sweatshops’, our findings note a ‘humane’ and ‘understanding’ workplace where emotions are not treated as organisational commodities. Our case study illustrates the ways in which supportiveness, caring and nurturance intertwine to form a humane and understanding workplace. It stresses how workers in a quality-oriented workplace may ‘consciously’ engage in ‘authentic’ emotion work for ‘commercial gains’ or as part of ‘philanthropic emotion management’ and without any formalised form of managerial control. This suggests that our CSRs occasionally performed a certain form of emotion work, even if they were not strained by it. Their emotions were comfortably accommodated within a fluid structure that balanced the demands of differing values and goals of both management and employees. As such, emotions in Rainbow appear to identify with ‘work feelings’ rather than ‘emotional labour’. This research raises a number of important considerations for those embarking upon the study of emotion management in voice-to-voice interactive service work. First, it suggests a pertinent distinction on the consistent differences uncovered in qualitative, quantitative and mixed emotional performances. Second, it indicates that emotions in SMEs may identify with work feelings rather than emotional labour. Third, it shows that the concept of philanthropic emotion management is not only applicable to the study of social feeling rules offering kindness to customers but also to those rules offering care and social support to employees. Our study also has practical implications. It assists managers to better understand the different types of influences they are facing when choosing the right management style in call centre environments. It helps them better approach the organisation of work in call centre SMEs, especially within European Mediterranean institutional contexts, like Greece. Specifically, our research stresses the benefits of bounded emotionality in achieving flexible and adaptive forms of work organisation in relation to emotion. It further highlights the importance of philanthropic emotion management regarding the tripartite relationship amongst middle level managers, CSRs and customers. Indeed, a philanthropic approach might enhance CSRs’ performance, and thus the provision of quality service (Bolton, 2005). Despite what we believe are the main contributions of our work for both theory and practice, we are reporting here on a single case study. Accordingly, future research in this area would be welcomed. One proposition would be to look at emotion work of other professional groups in SMEs. Another proposition would be to replicate this study in other call centre SMEs in the specific national context or other continental European contexts, where SMEs form the backbone of the national economy. Further research could also explore management’s performances of philanthropic emotion work for the benefit of employees in either large or small firms.