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Governing through Teamwork: Reconstituting Subjectivity in a Call Centre


  • David Knights


This article focuses on teamworking as a form of governmentality whereby management seeks to govern by distance. This involves mobilizing the support and commitment of employees to teamworking and organizational goals by appealing to their autonomy, unity, sociability and desire for a more enriched work experience. It is the struggle over subjectivity that is of concern here, for teamworking can be seen as a technology that aims to transform individuals into subjects that secure their sense of meaning and significance through working as a team. We will explore through a case study of a call centre in a large building society how a discourse of teamworking has begun to impinge upon individuals so as to shape not only how they behave but also how they think, derive meaning and understand the world. In turn, we consider some of the tensions and inconsistencies of teamworking in relation to the secrecy of pay differentials, and the return to productivity pressures after a period of relaxation and trust. Ultimately the article examines how individuals respond to, agonize over, resist and baulk against the imposition of 'team lives' when this rubs up against what they understand to be their 'private lives'. This will involve considering gender tensions that have so far been largely neglected in relation to call centres and teamworking. Teamworking, we will argue, reflects a will to govern rather than a mechanism of government. Copyright 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd..

Suggested Citation

  • David Knights, 2003. "Governing through Teamwork: Reconstituting Subjectivity in a Call Centre," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(7), pages 1587-1619, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:7:p:1587-1619

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    Cited by:

    1. Roberts, John, 2009. "No one is perfect: The limits of transparency and an ethic for 'intelligent' accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 957-970, November.
    2. Karin Garrety, 2008. "Organisational Control and the Self: Critiques and Normative Expectations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 82(1), pages 93-106, September.
    3. Leo McCann & Jonathan Morris & John Hassard, 2008. "Normalized Intensity: The New Labour Process of Middle Management," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 343-371, March.
    4. Messner, Martin, 2009. "The limits of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 918-938, November.

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