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Bermuda revisited? Management power and powerlessness in the worker-manager-customer triangle

Bolton, Sharon C. and Houlihan, Maeve (2010) Bermuda revisited? Management power and powerlessness in the worker-manager-customer triangle. Work and Occupations, 37 (3). pp. 378-403.

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Abstract

This article charts changing power relations within customer services, focusing on frontline service sector managers (FLSSMs): what they do and how they do it. Although increasingly ghostlike in the sociology of customer service work, the FLSSM is a mediator of the of the divergent interests of employees, senior management, and customers. Drawing on Kanter's notion of power failure in management circuits, the article depicts a series of "triangle dramas" drawn from a variety of frontline settings that show how managers can be denied access to "lines of power". The analysis questions the expectation that FLSSMs have sufficent power to resolve customer dissatisfactions or address structural failings.