Control and autonomy among knowledge workers in sales: An employee perspective

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This study focuses on control and autonomy among an emerging class of knowledge workers in sales, from the employees’ perspective. The sales engineers studied were not only technical experts, they also worked on their own in client's plants over extended periods of time, where they customised the emergent technology offered by their company. How did management control the work of the sales engineers? This paper will attempt to answer this question using ethnographic and interview material collected at a small engineering boutique. Market control emerges in this study as a central control mechanism. The sales engineers became a part of a quasi-firm arrangement, composed of them and the client's engineers and managers, who supervised their work. Management effort to ensure detailed documentation emerges as a second control mechanism. The necessity to document created a dilemma for the sales engineers. They perceived documentation as a managerial tool designed to enhance control and limit their autonomy, but also as a professional norm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2003


  • Autonomy
  • Control
  • Employee attitudes
  • Knowledge workers
  • Sales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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