Teams without teamwork? Explaining the call centre paradox

van den Broek, Diane; Callaghan, George and Thompson, Paul (2004). Teams without teamwork? Explaining the call centre paradox. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 25(2) pp. 197–218.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0143831X04042500

Abstract

Call centres are evidently an inhospitable environment for teams given a work design based on individualized, largely routine work regulated heavily by technology and managerial scripts. The article explores a number of potential explanations for this paradox in the context of comparable case studies from the UK and Australia. The case studies confirm that teamworking did not exist in any substantive or traditional sense within any of the plants. But it is argued that teams can exist in the absence of teamwork based largely on their normative benefits to management and to a much lesser extent team members. Even allowing for this differentiation, only one of the companies had sustained normative objectives and these were only partially successful. The existing sociotechnical design of call centres is not conducive to teams, but this may not be true of other types of service work.

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