Title

Information technology and the first-line manager's dilemma: Lessons from an ethnographic study

Abstract

This research builds on the literature on information technology and organizations to suggest an

alternative to the current understanding of the production of computer-generated representations of work.

This literature sees computer-generated representations of work as automatic outcomes of information

technology that managers use to scrutinize employees. We present a ethnography of a desk-based sales

unit which suggests that first-line managers can address the tension between the need to enforce

prescribed goals and procedures and the need to adapt to and protect employees’ improvisation by

forfeiting surveillance and instead use information technology to build a façade of compliance with

prescribed goals and procedures. Our results to shed light on the hidden labours behind representations

of compliance and place agency in the centre stage of the process of producing computer-generated

formal representations of work.

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