Methods of structuring word processing jobs and the effects on clerical workers

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration


R.J. Chesser


word processing technicians, word processing jobs

Subject Categories

Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Labor Relations


This study examines the meaning work has for word processing technicians in four different word processing centers at a Fortune 500 company located in the Northeastern United States. A total of 24 interviews were conducted over a five year period. Participant observations of the centers were also conducted as well as examination of pertinent documents. Approximately 500 pages of interview transcripts and fieldnotes were generated and analyzed using qualitative research methods.

Five thematic categories emerged from an analysis of the data: motivational issues, job stress, job satisfaction, career options and choices, and management philosophy and its relationship to job design choices. Support was found for Locke's goal setting theory, Bass' transformational leadership theory, and Karasek's research on the relationships between stress, work responsibilities, and control. In addition, the neutral, indeterministic nature of new technology was demonstrated.

The word processing technicians remained in jobs they found unmotivating and stressful for a variety of reasons: low self-esteem, fear of added responsibilities, lack of advancement opportunities, and management perceptions. Company management seemed to regard the technicians as not having the same need for advancement and challenge in their jobs as upper-echelon employees. The needs of the word processing technicians were rarely considered by the organization's management when making job design choices. This study suggests that ignoring the needs of employees at lower levels in the organization may have long term negative effects on productivity, cost control, and work quality.

Finally, despite numerous studies detailing the problems with Scientific Management, the method continues to be used by organizations to obtain greater control over employees. Just as the assembly-line enabled organizations to deskill the jobs of blue-collar workers, the computer has provided the means to deskill clerical work.


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