Managerial control and the limits to employee participation in retail work spaces: evidence from a UK IKEA store

Karen Bilsland, Andrew Cumbers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article contributes to labour process debates around managerial control and worker autonomy in the retail workplace. Through critical analysis of managerial strategies in the production of organisational space within an IKEA store, it explores how spatial design and practice shape managerial control and employee participation. Rather than the rhetoric of employee participation espoused by IKEA, our findings emphasise how managers use space to foster employee commitment to corporate objectives. While employees do exercise their own agency and spatial practice, their actions are moulded and constrained by dominant organisational structures and managerial strategies. As such, the article augments existing labour process research by developing new insights about how the spatial dimension shapes managerial control in retail workplaces. Although workers are far from the passive recipients of management decisions apparent in much labour process theory, their participation largely serves the strategic visions and spatial plans of their employer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-148
Number of pages19
JournalNew Technology, Work and Employment
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018



  • organisational control
  • labour process theory
  • participation
  • autonomy
  • retail
  • spatiality of work

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