Stephens, Keri K., Negotiating Control: Organizations and Mobile Communication. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. xii + 296 pages. Hardcover, $69.57.
The methods by which business employees adopt and utilize mobile communication is the topic of this timely study. Motivated by training in organizational communication, Keri Stephens has written this book "with the hope that people from different backgrounds--scholars, human resource (HR) managers, information systems (IS) professionals, and students--can all understand and learn from the stories and data analyzed here" (p. 5). The material is examined from three distinct perspectives, organizational, power, and human communication. The author, an associate professor of communications studies at the University of Texas at Austin, serves as associate editor of Management Communication Quarterly.
The text contains twelve chapters and two appendices. The initial two chapters furnish background on utilization of cell phones as business tools. Stevens observes that just as cell phone access exploded in the first decade of the new century, so did expectations about their use at work. However, managers soon "faced some difficult decisions about how to allocate and regulate their use" (p. 29).
Across the next seven chapters, Stevens depicts how different workers cope with formal and informal rules regarding mobile phone usage. Though she identifies a fourth perspective of analysis--concertive--which gives worker team some discretion over mobile phone policy, this approach nonetheless is driven by overlapping organizational goals. When leaders fail to establish explicit mobile phone rules, employees tend to adhere to the governing norms. Among manual workers, complaints about supervisors' implementation of mobile phone rules ranged from lack of access and the need to improve computer literacy to perceived inconsistent interpretation of procedures. The policy of bring-your-own-device to work (BYOD) is assessed as it pertains to new college graduates, hospital workers, and customer-facing occupations.
Chapters 10 through 12 attempt to synthesize earlier findings. Among key conclusions about mobile phone use at work are: 1) people are not always reachable; 2) it is not always acceptable to use or be seen using a mobile device at work; 3) types of control surrendering mobile use vary. Stephens proposes self-discipline and human-to-human communication as broad recommendations for improvement, while...