Branding consent: the role of employer brand in retail labor process control.

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Branding consent: the role of employer brand in retail labor process control.

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This study uses the case of retail work at a high-line branded home furnishings store to examine how employer brand operates in retail labor control. Specifically, the study examines how gender and class as meshed are exploited by the organization for control, and how worker consent to exploitation allows for positive self-feeling linked to positive class and gender identity. Drawing on ethnographic research, I argue that workers buy into the organization's gendered class directives demonstrated through the brand because it allows them to construct enhanced (gendered) class identities. Workers produce, consume, and realize symbolic status in their work, in turn feeling elevated in class, but this feeling is only sustained by continuing the work. I present this as a strong system of labor control, observing that status hits delivered by customers and managers are followed by worker efforts to reverse that damage. I also suggest the system is not seamless, showing how work contradictions are linked to worker resistance, and resistance is linked to workers' class and gender identifications. Introducing the concept of identity labor, I indicate a distinctive labor type associated with the branded labor process wherein enactment of employer brand meanings is part of work.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2011. Major: Sociology. Advisor: Erin Kelly. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 516 pages, appendix p. 514-516.

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Smith, Deborah A.. (2011). Branding consent: the role of employer brand in retail labor process control.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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