Doctoral student writing

Exploring the emergence of new forms of resistance to the implementation of socio-ideological controls in the workplace

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2018
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Concepts of organizational control mechanisms and forms of resistance to them have been at the centre of organizational studies research. This project would focus on investigating actors’ resistance to contemporary organizational control mechanisms in the workplace. Although, an expansive and well established literature documents contemporary control mechanisms, little empirical research has been devoted to the understanding of new forms of resistance to them (Fineman, and Sturdy, 1999; Gabriel, 1999, 2008; Raelin, 2011). This is surprising given that organizational scholars have long noted that new organizational control mechanisms always give rise to new forms of resistance (Braverman, 1974; Burawoy 1979, 1985; Gabriel, 1999; Ashcraft, 2005; Gabriel, 2008; Lonsdale et al. 2015). Ashcraft (2005) argued that control and resistance are intertwined. Similarly, over a decade ago, Gabriel (1999, p. 192) noted that “new forms of control generate new forms of resistance, resistance which may go un-noticed if one goes about looking for it in the way that earlier sociologists did”. Gabriel (2008) suggested that new forms of resistance may take new forms that are subtle and often hard to detect. He further added that “in spite of the formidable disciplinary mechanisms  ... today's workplace creates its own possibilities of opposition, with employees displaying a bewildering range of responses which qualify, subvert, disregard or resist managerial calls for flexibility, commitment and quality... At times, fear and insecurity may dominate their responses, yet frequently they show ingenuity in supplanting and contesting management discourses, turning them into objects of amusement, cynicism or confrontation”. Although Gabriel (2008) touched on a number of possible ‘new’ forms of resistance, he did not investigate them empirically, nor did he explore how the ‘new variants of opposition and dissent’ are used by employees. Therefore, it is not at all clear what forms the resistance is taking and how it is used by employees. Against this background, this project is designed to uncover and explore de novo forms of resistance in response to new control mechanisms. The study would focus on the workplace as well as on the ‘uncontrolled spaces’ or what Gabriel (2008) calls “unmanaged and unmanageable” spaces because they are “the natural starting point for understanding how, why and when workers contest” (Roscigno and Hodson, 2004, p. 15).

This project is driven by one significant theoretical observation. Extant studies that have highlighted the presence of new control mechanisms (Braveman, 1974; Burawoy, 1979; 1983; 1985; Edwards, 1979; Knights, 1990, 1992; Knights & Vurdubakis, 1994; Marsden, 1993; Barker,1993; Peters and Waterman, 1982; Mumby and Putnam, 1992; Fineman, 1993; Kets de Vries, 1988; Krantz, 1989; 1990; Oglensky, 1995; Lonsdale et al., 2015) mainly looked at the different modes of those new controls (e.g. personal vs. impersonal), and the different levels at which they can occur (e.g. at the level of the customer-provider relationship; at the level of the manager-employee relationship). Research on employees’ resistance and dissent to new forms of control mechanisms is very limited and represents no more than anecdotal observations. For instance Gabriel (1999 and 2008) carefully articulated why new forms of resistance have emerged, but did not elaborate in details on the forms of this resistance. Furthermore, the limited studies that have focused on organizational actors’ response to new control mechanisms (Collinson, 2003; Fleming, 2005) particularly looked at the implications of those mechanisms on individuals’ subjectivity. These contributions show a notable lack of focus on actors’ collective responses to new control mechanisms. This project aims to close this gap by exploring actors’ collective response to new control mechanisms


Dr Ofelia A. Palermo

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

How to apply

Applications are accepted all year round.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

Guidance and support

Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.

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Ofelia A. Palermo