Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Tony Frost

2nd Supervisor

Mark Zbaracki

Joint Supervisor


The provision of service is a growing focus of scholars in the fields of management and organization studies. Yet research in this area continues to reflect the tenets of Weberian bureaucracy with the predominant conceptualization of the provision of service as a “production system” in which customers and the organization’s resources are inputs, and services are the outputs of the organization. Accordingly, the organizing work of managers is conceived as activities that protect the “production system” from input uncertainties and external influences. What is overlooked in this perspective, however, is the dynamic tension between the organizing work of managers and the realities of service encounters.

This dissertation expands the current understanding of the provision of accommodation as an example of the provision of service. Based on an ethnographic study of the Front Desk and Housekeeping departments of a large hotel, this dissertation investigates how the realities of encounters between the frontline employees and the customers influence the organizing work of managers. This dissertation takes on a dramaturgical perspective of the provision of accommodation. Building on the idea that the lives of service providers can be understood as resembling actors’ performances on a theatrical stage, this study analyzes the role of managers in (a) setting the stage for the provision of accommodation, (b) defining the roles of service providers, and (c) employing symbols and artifacts that give direction to the service encounters.

The findings of this dissertation offer three key insights about the work of managers and the provision of service. First, while managers employ categorizations as rationalized systems of organizing, the meanings, and thus the organizing effects, of categories are related to the employees’ work. Second, managers work at an empirical interface, a point at which the organization meets the vagaries of the real world. Consequently, the work of managers in organizing the provision of service involves manipulating symbols, things, and people. Third, the work of managers comprises both caretaking and transforming the organization. However, caretaking or transforming actions depend on the managers’ daily encounters with the real or the abstract elements of the organization.