Absenteeism from the frontline: explaining employee stress and withdrawal in a call centre

2017-06-05T03:14:52Z (GMT) by Dean, Alison M Rainnie, Al
This paper reports on a study which investigated employees' views on why they find call centre work more stressful than other types of work and the reasons for high levels of absenteeism in their workplace. Data were collected from frontline employees (n = 58) of a telecommunications call centre during ten focus groups. Content analysis of the data identified nine major themes. Overall, the study suggests that employee stress results from managers' emphases on sales and efficiency demands, directed by specific targets and high levels of electronic monitoring. Additionally, employees vary in their ability to provide emotional labour and deal with the stress of customer interactions. Other themes focused on call centre support processes and structures, teams, insufficient rest time, inadequate communication systems and human resource management issues. All the themes contributed to accumulated stress. Absenteeism was explained in terms of the accumulated stress, the perceived hygiene of the centre, proximity to others and employees' lack of identity. Finally, decreased employee commitment and withdrawal were attributed to perceived inequities in the workplace. The paper concludes with a discussion of managerial applications.