Online from: 2004
Subject Area: Accounting and Finance
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|Title:||Coping with control? Retail employee responses to flexibilisation|
|Author(s):||Kristin Carls, (Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)|
|Citation:||Kristin Carls, (2009) "Coping with control? Retail employee responses to flexibilisation", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 6 Iss: 1/2, pp.83 - 101|
|Keywords:||Control, Employee attitudes, Flexible labour, Italy, Retailing|
|Article type:||Research paper|
|DOI:||10.1108/11766090910940683 (Permanent URL)|
|Publisher:||Emerald Group Publishing Limited|
Purpose – This paper deals with flexibilisation of work and employment in large-scale retailing. Its aim is two-fold: first, to highlight how an authoritarian workplace regime and normative forms of control interact, in the attempt to achieve workforce alignment to flexibility. Second, to explore how employees make sense of experienced workplace conflicts, and to what extent they are able to develop capacities to act and to influence their working conditions.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on a qualitative study undertaken in four large-scale retailing companies in the Italian city of Milan. It is based on 45 semi-structured, problem-centred interviews with employees, shop stewards and union officers.
Findings – Analysis reveals how control manifests in “forced availability” based on individualised, informal daily flexibilisation, and sustained by resulting precarisation. Employees are active participants, as the functioning of the work organization depends on their capacity to balance in-built contradictions. Yet, their capacity to act remains limited. They are trapped by individualised concepts of labour relations: a merit-oriented understanding of work as a “fair exchange” and a personalised perception of social relations and interactions at the work place.
Research limitations/implications – The research encountered challenges in accessing temporary employees due to their fear of negative repercussions. This makes the sample slightly biased towards permanent, part time and fulltime, employment. Yet, it is also an opportunity, as it makes it possible to map experiences of precarisation across different employee groups.
Originality/value – Using the concepts of “coping practices”, “common sense” and “capacity to act”, the paper proposes to go beyond the dualisms of the resistance-control debate. It points at the contradictory and interlinked character of employees' coping practices of adaptation, appropriation, conflictive negotiation and resistance.
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