Title: Middle managers in open-plan offices: feeling free and frustrated

Authors: Federica De Molli; Donatella De Paoli

Addresses: Department of Economics and Business Management Sciences, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC), Milan, Italy ' Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway

Abstract: Following the spatial turn in organisation studies, this research attempts to investigate the relation between designed organisational space and organisational control. In particular, the study explores how middle managers experience control in open-plan offices and how this affects their feelings and daily work activities. Through a study of a major Norwegian telecom company - which has redesigned its headquarters, transforming them from traditional closed offices to open-plan offices - this paper illustrates the experience of ambivalence felt by middle managers in the studied environment, which is perceived by managers as a tension between feeling empowered and in control versus feeling trapped and controlled. We illustrate how this ambivalence emerges through the interplay of various feelings connected to seduction, equality, performance evaluation, enacting control and being controlled, frustration and the need to escape. The findings show how this contradictory experience negatively affects middle managers' daily work activities.

Keywords: organisational space; ambivalence; office design; open-plan office; middle managers; control; emotions.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWOE.2020.10032397

International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, 2020 Vol.11 No.3, pp.231 - 246

Received: 05 May 2020
Accepted: 06 Aug 2020

Published online: 27 Oct 2020 *

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