Middle Managers in Open-Plan Office: Feeling Free and Frustrated

Federica De Molli

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Following the spatial turn in organisation studies, this research attempts to investigate the relation between designed organisational space and organisational control. In particular, the study explores how middle managers experience control in open-plan offices and how this affects their feelings and daily work activities. Through a study of a major Norwegian telecom company—which has redesigned its headquarters, transforming them from traditional closed offices to open-plan offices— this paper illustrates the experience of ambivalence felt by middle managers in the studied environment, which is perceived by managers as a tension between feeling empowered and in control versus feeling trapped and controlled. We illustrate how this ambivalence emerges through the interplay of various feelings connected to seduction, equality, performance evaluation, enacting control and being controlled, frustration and the need to escape. The findings show how this contradictory experience negatively affects middle managers’ daily work activities.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)231-246
Numero di pagine16
RivistaInternational Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020


  • aesthetics
  • ambivalence
  • control
  • emotions
  • middel manager
  • office design
  • open-plan office
  • organizational space


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