Determinants of temporal flexibility and precarious flexible scheduling – a cross sector qualitative study of line manager relationships with staff and regimes of control and consent

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis focuses on two separate but connected strands. The first is the increasing prevalence of temporal flexibility in the deployment of frontline staff in diverse sectors to manage demand. The second element uses this context to focus on a specific outcome of the move toward temporal flexibility and considers the implementation of precarious and flexible scheduling, and how line managers implement this and how they negotiate with their staff to deliver outcomes. The thesis argues that line management and senior management/firm outcomes are not the same, and that line management and staff outcomes often converge even where there is conflict over the implementation and practice of flexible scheduling. To conceptualise this, Burawoy’s concept of consent is considered, along with Chun (2001) and Wood’s (2020) theory of flexible despotism and scheduling gifts. While other studies in the literature focus on worker behaviour and resistance, this thesis is distinctive in taking line management as its empirical focus. It examines how line management decision-making and management style impact on these forms of precarious scheduling and the extent to which managers are able to create room for autonomy to achieve their goals and manage relationships with staff. Twenty-seven managers in direct line management roles with responsibly for scheduling practices and implementation were interviewed across four discrete sectors - supermarkets, sport and leisure, software development, and hotels and hospitality. These areas are identified in the literature as utilising high levels of temporal flexibility with varying levels of flexible scheduling, with new technologies being implemented in recent years and a rapid pace of change. The thesis concludes that while precarious scheduling may be considered as a form of senior management and capital control, it is mediated and diluted by line management which is able to turn the potential conflict into a site of negotiation, thus potentially empowering both parties and allowing favourable outcomes for both staff and line management and produce a regime of control by consent.
Date of Award7 May 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorNoemi Lendvai-Bainton (Supervisor) & Alex D Marsh (Supervisor)

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