Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Corporate survival in the competitive service sector demands continuous improvement in employee productivity. Thus, managers of labor-intensive businesses are always searching for new tools to increase productivity. One tool gaining popularity, and notoriety, is the computerized performance monitoring and control system (CPMCS). Proponents say that CPMCSs increase the consistency, accuracy and fairness of performance measurement, and improve productivity. Opponents argue that productivity improves at the expense of customer service, quality of work life, and employee health. Despite the importance of these issues, few researchers have studied the effects of computerized performance monitoring.;This two-stage research study examined CPMCS impact on service workers and their perceptions of work. In the first stage, a case study compared monitored and unmonitored claims processors in three offices of a major insurance company. Interviews, surveys, and performance data demonstrated effects of low-level monitoring.;The second stage surveyed service workers in 51 Canadian firms to test a causal model of CPMCS impact. It demonstrated the impact of work environment and four dimensions of monitoring on the importance employees attach to production and interaction. The four design dimensions were: (1) extent of monitoring; (2) measurement frequency; (3) recipients of data; and (4) objects of measurement. The model also showed that the credibility of computers as measurement devices moderated system design effects.;The study made three major research contributions. First, it provided an in-depth, qualitative analysis of CPMCS impact in a single firm. Second, it demonstrated combining case and survey field research to develop and test theory. Third, it produced a causal model of CPMCS impact, with good explanatory and predictive power.;The research concluded that: (1) Monitors are multidimensional control systems. Design decisions should be made independently for each dimension, and research should differentiate among the dimension. (2) The importance attached to production depends, in part, on acceptance of monitor data and its importance to the employer. (3) Monitoring, the importance of other job dimensions, the nature of the work, and the employer's criteria all contribute to attitudes about service importance. (4) Monitors do not replace or improve upon human supervisors, except in a very narrow sense. Nor does more monitoring necessarily mean better control. Supervisors play a crucial role in controlling qualitative aspects of the work.



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