Dissertation Abstracts

Power at the Heart of the Service Relationship: A Clinical Approach in Management Sciences

Author: Glinne-Demaret, Harmony , h_glinne@yahoo.fr
Department: Louvain School of Management
University: Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Supervisor: Thomas Périlleux
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: service , clinical , power , legitimization
Areas of Research: Clinical Sociology , Organization , Work


This thesis aims to explore the power relationships within the service interaction, from the particular position of the front-line worker. The question of the legitimacy of these relationships is raised by the concept of the "symbolic figure of the customer" in two service organizations. The first section of this paper describes the specific position of the postal clerk, caught between an “incarnate customer” at the counter and the “invoked customer” which the management uses to legitimize decisions impacting front-line work. The second section describes the subjective experience of consultants in temporary work agencies, who are caught in tension between two customers, firms and temporary workers, whose roles and places are different and even sometimes contradictory. For each of these fields, a detailed description of the organizational system highlights contradictions that may appear in the triangular power relationships between front-line worker, customer and management.
Another aim of this thesis, concomitant with the process of knowledge production on service organizations, is the construction of a reflection about the contribution of clinical and reflexive approach for management science. The main dimensions of the clinical approach, namely the co-construction, restitution and reflective analysis of the relationship between the clinician and his research object, are exploited to develop knowledge in management science, while acknowledging the limits of such a transdisciplinary approach. The position “by the side” adopted by the clinician researcher provides a different perspective, another way to look at and listen to the organization, which is complementary to a manager’s vision.

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