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'Decommissioned vessels' – performance management and older workers in technologically-intensive service work

Scholarios, Dora and Taylor, Philip (2014) 'Decommissioned vessels' – performance management and older workers in technologically-intensive service work. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 89. 333–342. ISSN 0040-1625

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Despite increasing policy emphasis on developing and retaining an aging workforce, this paper demonstrates employer use of electronic performance monitoring (EPM) as part of performance management which can adversely affect older workers. We focus specifically on the use of EPM which is used to identify a proportion of the workforce as ‘underperformers', often referred to as forced distribution rating systems. Evidence is presented from union informants representing employees in two technologically-intensive service sectors: the financial sector and telecommunications. These sectors were amongst the first to utilize technology in a way which had transformative implications for work processes and people management in white-collar service work. In both sectors and across clerical and engineering work contexts, the data show the use of EPM by managers to guide punitive performance management for sickness absence and perceived reduced capability. Older workers emerge as a vulnerable group, with manager decisions shown to be based on age stereotypes. We argue that increasingly pervasive use of digitized performance monitoring may intensify age discrimination in performance management.