Academic journal article Management Review : An International Journal

Work Pressure and Social Skills an Analysis Based on the Fourfold Typology of Emotional Labor

Academic journal article Management Review : An International Journal

Work Pressure and Social Skills an Analysis Based on the Fourfold Typology of Emotional Labor

Article excerpt


In the past decades, most studies on emotional labor have used the traditional framework developed by Hochschild, relating to deep acting and surface acting. Recently, the Bolton.s fourfold typology has attempted to broaden this perspective by showing that emotional labor may not only bring negative consequences. Emotional labor may also bear positive aspects for the workers when it allows them to mobilize resources in order to do their job. Using the new framework of emotional labor, this paper aims to understand how the CSRs of a call center can apply different strategies of action in their work that are related to the four aspects of emotional labor (pecuniary, prescriptive, presentational and philanthropic). Results show that emotional labor is not always a constraint. It can also bring up the capacity of the workers to mobilize some of their social skills in order to give a sense to their work.

Keywords: Fourfold typology of emotional labor, call centers, work pressure, social skills, strategies of action


Call centers have considerably developed in many countries for the two last decades. In Canada, the revenues of these organizations have increased from 424 millions to 2.76 billion Canadian dollars between 1998 and 2006 (Vincent and McKeown, 2008). Moreover, the employment of this industry has grown from 146,000 to 650,000 jobs between 1995 and 2005 (Contact Centre Canada, 2006), which represents about 3% of the total workforce in this Canada (Batt, Holman and Holtgrewe, 2009). Elsewhere in the world, according to the data compiled by Batt, Holman and Holtgrewe (2009), approximately 4 millions of United States. and 742,000 of the UK.s population worked in call centers in 2005. The number of jobs in this sector also greatly increased in emerging economies because of significant development of their information technology sector. As a matter of fact, D.Cruz and Noronha (2008) indicate that jobs in this sector increased from 107,000 to about 550,000 in India between 2001 and 2007.

Since the main issue in call center is to minimize operating costs while improving customer service, the scientific literature on labor has mainly highlighted the negative consequences of electronic surveillance on the CSRs. On one hand, the stream of structuralism underlines the highly regimented character of work in this sector. According to Fernie and Metcalf (1998), call centers look like the new sweatshops where employees are largely dominated and exploited by hierarchical managerial control. Although Taylor and Bain (1999) reject such an extent, they insist on the idea that the work in call centers is widely based on the Taylor.s division of work. Moreover, Bain et al. (2002) also point out that the managers in this sector look for an increasingly formalized customer service quality control. This generates additional pressure on CSRs since it constantly restrains their creativity when interacting with customers. Thus, call quality practices show that when the CSRs are online, their behaviour is devoted to match the hierarchical expectations as correctly as possible (Taylor et al., 2002). Even when the CSRs are allowed some creativity, their actions still fit within the managerial expectations since their behaviours are built from monitoring tools, developed and applied by the managers (Winiecki, 2007). Hence, when some multinational companies relocated their call centers, for instance in India, the CSRs. work standardization took proportions that had been unreached until now, demanding employees to adopt an American or a British accent and must use occidental pseudonyms (Poster, 2007; Mirchandani, 2005; Taylor and Bain, 2005). In short, studies within the structuralist stream of social domination showed that the work of CSRs in call centers is strongly restrictive. The CSRs. space of autonomy is thin and they remain under constant managerial control, which generates negative consequences for them. …

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