Teams without teamwork: Explaining the call centre paradox

P. Thompson, G. Callaghan, D. van der-Broek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


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 con.rm 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 bene.ts 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-218
Number of pages21
JournalEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • call centres
  • normative control
  • service work
  • team dimensions model
  • teamwork
  • human resources


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