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How Managers Maintain Control Through Collaborative Repair: Evidence from Platform-Mediated ‘Gigs’, Organization Science

Abstract

This paper develops a new understanding about how "client managers" —those using platform labor markets to hire and manage workers —attempt to maintain control when managing skilled contractors. We conducted an inductive field study analyzing interactions between client managers and contractors in software development “gigs” mediated by a platform labor market. The platform provided multiple tools client managers could use for control, including in response to unexpected events. We found that, when managers used the tools to exert coercive control over contractors acting unexpectedly, it backfired and contributed to uncompleted project outcomes. In contrast, when they refrained from using the tools for coercive control in such circumstances and instead engaged in what we call collaborative repair, their actions contributed to completed project outcomes. Collaborative repair refers to interactions that surface misaligned interpretations of a situation and help parties negotiate new, reciprocal expectations that restore trust and willingness to continue an exchange. Client managers’ attempts at collaborative repair yielded fuller understanding of project-related breakdowns and shared investment in new expectations, facilitating effective control and completed projects. This study extends prior theories of control by characterizing the new client manager role created by platforms and demonstrating how initiating repair is integral for managers’ capacity to accomplish control in these comparatively brittle work relationships.

Type

Article

Author(s)

Hatim Rahman, Melissa A Valentine

Date Published

2021

Citations

Rahman, Hatim, and Melissa A Valentine. 2021. How Managers Maintain Control Through Collaborative Repair: Evidence from Platform-Mediated ‘Gigs’. Organization Science.

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