Journal of Service Science and Management, 2012, 5, 313-317 Published Online December 2012 (
When Reaching Our Potential Predicts Low Values: A
Longitudinal Study about Performance and Organizational
Values at Call Centres
Danilo Garcia1,2*, Trevor Archer3,4
1Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health (CELAM), University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden; 2Institute of Neuroscience and
Physiology, The Sahlgrenska Academy , University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden; 3Departmet of Psyc hology, Unive rsity of Goth -
enburg, Goth enburg , Sweden; 4Department of Psychology, Education and Sport Science, Linneaus University, Kalmar, Sweden.
Email: *
Received September 5th, 2012; revised October 7th, 2012; accepted October 20th, 2012
The present study was executed using data from a call centre in Sweden in which ag ents answered questions regarding
financial advice. The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship of call centre agents’ perceptions about the
work climate and the organizational values to their performance, as measured by the organization. In Study 1, agents (N =
106) reported their experience about the work climate and organizational values. Performance (i.e., percent of time on
the phone for each work day) was then assessed for the next six consecutive months. In Study 2, agents’ perceptions of
organizational values were measured among a new sample (N = 262) from the same call centre. Performance was
measured during the next two consecutive years. With regard to the working climate, workers’ autonomy was nega-
tively related to their own performance. The resu lts show also a negative relationship between organizational values and
performance during the two following years. Agents seem to maintain high productivity levels at the cost of organiza-
tional core values, perhaps due to the visible and rewarding nature of productivity.
Keywords: Call Centre; Organizational Values; Performance; Time Schedule
1. Introduction
Organizations that work with specific values are more
successful than the ones that do not emphasize values [1].
These core values need to be explicitly declared and
lived by the organizations leaders and employees [2], and
should reflect the organizations business plan and mar-
keting strategy [3]. Moreover, it might be crucial for the
organization to integrate the values into all management
process, such as, performance assessment, rewards, and
punishments [3,4]. If organizational values and measures
of performance don’t fit, the organization risks either low
productivity or that workers perceive valu es as shallow.
The call centre environment is a compelling and spe-
cial environment in which this hypothesis could be tested,
mainly due to high performance monitoring [5,6]. Most
call centres define performance as quantitative indicator s
such as length of call, number of calls, and the percent-
age of the scheduled “time on the phone” [5]. This spe-
cific type of work design might imply unfavourable
working conditions that might affect employees’ ability
to learn how to cope with the rapid external and internal
changes in working life. This work design perhaps even
minimize employees’ opportunities to org anize their own
work, diminish their sense of freedom for making deci-
sions and initiatin g actio n, and limit th eir opp ortunities to
learn from supportive colleagues with expertise. Indeed,
Taylor and Bain ([5], p. 102) suggest that “call centre
managements face a plethora of problems concerning
motivation and commitment, labour turnover, the effec-
tiveness of supervision and the delivery of quality and
quantity performance”.
The work climate (i.e., employees’ perceptions of how
they are treated and managed in their organization) is
important when the organizations try to motivate em-
ployees to allocate and enhance their efforts into their
work [7,8]. The effectiveness of an organization in cre-
ating a climate in which employees are able to learn from
each other or/and new experiences is crucial for the ef-
fectiveness of the development of the organization but
also for the well-being of employees [9]. Call centre
agents who experience less autonomy (e.g., follow with-
out deviations a scripted dialog, intensive performance
monitoring), for example, show higher levels of strain
*Corresponding author.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JSSM
When Reaching Our Potential Predicts Low Values: A Longitudinal Study about Performance and Organizational
Values at Call Centres
The present study was executed using data from a call
centre in Sweden in which agents answered questions
regarding financial advice. The aim of the present set of
studies is to investigate the relationship of call centre
agents’ perceptions of organisational values, their work
climate, and their performance measured by the organi-
zation as percentage of “time on the phone” over a six-
month-period in Study 1 and two-year-period in Study 2.
This specific performance measure was used by the or-
ganization as the most important part of the reward sys-
tem, that is, agents that performed the best got, for ex-
ample, higher payments—a common reward system
among call centres [5]. It is plausible to suggest that the
core values might not be integrated in the reward system
in this specific case. Hence, although a positive working
climate was expected to be related to a positive view of
organizational values, performance was expected to be
negatively related to both variables. Due to the working
design of call centres, this negative relationship between
work climate and performance was particularly expected
with regard to workers’ experience of autonomy, that is,
opportunities for employees to organize their own work
and the opportunities given for making decisions and
initiating action.
2. Study 1: Learning Work Climate, Values,
and Performance
2.1. Method
2.1.1. P a rticipa nts and Procedure
The whole popu lation consisted of 135 call cen tre agents
who were invited to self-report their perception of the
work climate and organizational values. All agents, no
supervisors were invited to participate, were informed
that their participation was voluntary and confidential.
Agents were instructed to provide their “worker number”
in order to trace responses from the first and second part
of Study 1. All agents participated in the first part of the
Study and received cinema tickets for their collaboration.
Participants’ performance was then assessed for the next
six consecutive months by the same system handling the
calls. At the end of the six months, participants were
asked to retrieve their performance and to report it di-
rectly to one of the research ers along their “worker num-
ber”. Agents who provided their performance at the sec-
ond part of the study received a cinema ticket for their
collaboration. A total of 106 (mean age = 43.07 SD =
12.68) agents, 84 females and 25 males, retrieved this
information successfully.
2.1.2. Measures Wo r king Climat e
The Learning Climate Questionnaire (LCQ) [11] was
used to measure agents’ experience of the working cli-
mate. The LCQ comprises 70 items (1 = extremely dis-
agree, 5 = extremely agree), organized in seven sub-
scales that provide means for looking at the working cli-
mate in more detail: Management Relations and Style
(e.g., “My immediate manager makes me feel like a
valuable member of the team”), Time (e.g., “I have time
to do my job properly” ), Autonomy and Responsibility
(e.g., “I feel free to organize my work the way I want
to”), Team Style (e.g., “If we ask each other for help it is
given”), Opportunities to Develop (e.g., “There are lots
of different ways to learn new jobs here”), Guidelines on
How to Do the Job (e.g., “Information relevant to my job
is kept up-to-date”), and Contentedness (e.g., “People
tend to put each othe r down”).
2.1.2. 2. Pe rception o f Organizational Values
The agents’ perception of organizational values was as-
sessed by simply asking agents to rate to what ex tent (1 =
not at all, 5 = extremely good) they thought th e organiza-
tion lived up to the three core values explicitly stated by
the managers and the organization: proactive, trustful,
and helpful.
2.1.2. 3. Pe rforma nce
Each worker’s performance was assessed by the same
system handling the calls each day over a six month pe-
riod. Basically each worker has a minimum of five hours
schedule each day for being logged in the system waiting
and handling inbound- and outbound phone calls (i.e.,
“time on the phone”). The system monitors these actions
and divides the cumulated “time on the phone” by the
time the agent was originally schedule to be on the phon e.
In other words, the performance measure is a percentage
of the time the organization expects the agents to be
working on calls or being ready to receive calls and the
actual time agents deliver. The system handles absentee-
ism, caused by sickness or other type of absenteeism
accepted by the organization, by simply not taking those
days or hours into account when the performance meas-
ure is computed.
2.2. Results and Discussion
All work climate subscales of the LCQ were positively
related to agents’ perception of the organizational values.
As predicted, the sub-scale of Autonomy was negatively
correlated to performance over the six month period (see
Table 1). In other words, low perceptions of control over
how one organizes one’s work and the opportunities
given for making decisions and initiating action were
related to high levels of “time on the phone”. These
agents do not see themselves as encouraged to take re-
sponsibility for learning and lack freedom to experiment
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JSSM
When Reaching Our Potential Predicts Low Values: A Longitudinal Study about Performance and Organizational
Values at Call Centres
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JSSM
Table 1. Correlations, means and standard deviations, and reliability for work climate, values, and performance in Study 1.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
1) Management
Relations and
Style -
2) Time 0.24** -
3) Autonomy
Responsibility 0.44*** 0.65*** -
4) Team Style 0.39*** 0.42*** 0.45*** -
5) Opportunities
to Develop 0.55*** 0.47*** 0.69*** 0.41*** -
6) Guidelines on
How to Do the
Job 0.58*** 0.61*** 0.67*** 0.63*** 0.69*** -
7) Contenteness 0.22* 0.44*** 0.40*** 0.39*** 0.45*** 0.45*** -
8) Proactive 0.45*** 0.26** 0.31** 0.35*** 0.39*** 0.41*** 0.26** -
9) Trustful 0.45*** 0.30** 0.30** 0.38*** 0.43*** 0.49*** 0.36*** 0.50*** -
10) Helpful 0.35*** 0.16ns 0.23* 0.40*** 0.21* 0.29** 0.26** 0.43*** 0.51*** -
11) Performa nce –0.03ns –0.18ns –0.30** –0.12ns –0.18ns –0.08ns –0.27* –0.06ns –0.17ns –0.11ns -
ean and stand.
dev. (±) 4.13 ± 0.63 3.2 3 ± 0.81 3.27 ± 0.64 4.18 ± 0. 453.12 ± 0. 623.78 ± 0. 512.87 ± 0. 653.78 ± 0.723.99 ± 0.72 4.49 ± 0.65 79.4 7 ± 25.5 7
Cronbachs α 0.8 7 0.90 0.81 0.77 0.80 0.73 0.81 - - - -
Note: nsnon-significant, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.
and take risks. Moreover, also Contentedness was nega-
tively related to performance—low feelings of satisfac-
tion with the workplace climate in terms of there being
many complaints, moans, and negative attitudes from
colleagues led to higher performance through the six
month period. A low score in Contentedness arise when
colleagues do not get along well, when they tend to
blame each other for the work they do and people are
resistant to trying new ways of doing things [9,11].
Nevertheless, perception of the organizational values
was not related to agents’ performance. Study 2 aims to
explore t hi s re l ationship over a two ye ar pe riod.
3. Study 2: Values and Performance over a
Two-Year Period
3.1. Method
As part of an electronic survey regarding work climate
conducted by the organization two years earlier, 300
agents from the same call centre had self-reported their
perception of organizational values, using the same
measure as in Study 1. For Study 2, agents performance,
as measured in Study 1, was retrieved at two points in
time after the originally measurement of the agents’ per-
ception of organizational values. Data for 262 agents
could be traced at the group level for both value percep-
tion and performance.
3.2. Results and Discussion
Correlation analysis showed that perceiving the organi-
zation as not living up to the value of trustfulness was
negatively related to performance both in the first and
second year of the study (see Table 2). Nevertheless, the
perception of whether the organization lived up to being
proactive and helpful was not related to performance
during the two years.
As expected, experiencing that the organization did
not lived up to its core values led to high performance.
However, the results can also be seen the other way
around: seeing the organization living up to being trustful
was related to workers performing less. Perhaps, agents
that tried to live up to this specific value, delivering
trustful answers to the custo mers, deviated from the sche-
duled phone-time they were expected to deliver. Never-
theless, the results of Study 2 need to be interpreted cau-
tiously because only data at the group level was used.
4. Conclusions and Final Remarks
Call centers’ managers and decision makers might need
to emphasize the connection between performance
measures and the values of the organization. As sug-
gested by Taylor and Bain [5], call centers seem to
struggle with quality and quantity performance. Agents
at call centres seem to maintain productivity levels at the
When Reaching Our Potential Predicts Low Values: A Longitudinal Study about Performance and Organizational
Values at Call Centres
Table 2. Correlations, means and standard deviations for value perception and performance in Study 2.
Proactive Trustful Helpful Performance one year after Performance two years after
Proactive -
Trustful 0.42ns -
Helpful 0.19ns 0.40ns -
Performance one year after –0.09 ns –0.48* –0.20ns -
Performance two year after –0.12ns –0.48* –0.17ns 0.82*** -
Mean and stand. dev. (±) 3.9 ± 0.21 3.69 ± 0.21 4.27 ± 0.1982.93 ± 4.81 86.21 ± 5.28
Note: nsnon-significant, *p < 0.05, ***p < 0.001.
cost of organizational core values, perhaps due to the
visible and rewarding nature of productivity.
Nonetheless, the results presented here suggest that
encouraging workers to take responsibility for learning
and being given the freedom to experiment and take risks
(i.e., autonomy) might lead to lower performance, at least
in a call centre environment. In order to compensate for
giving agents more autonomy, managers should encour-
age and create opportunities that are related to high per-
formance in call centres. Frequent physical activity, for
example, seems to boost up call centre workers’ per-
formance [12-14].
Finally, although the “time on the phone” that agents
spend is important in regard to customer satisfaction, the
most important is to receive a helpful and trustworthy
answer, even when the queue times are long [15]. Thus,
the concern with “time on the phone” should not override
living up to core va lues.
Time is making fools of us again
Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince by J. K. Rowling.
5. Acknowledgements
The development of this article was supported by The
Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports (CIF;
Grant No. P2012-0097). Appreciation is also directed to
Erik Lindskär for his assistance with the data.
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