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“Mail carriers’ routes : Managerial standards, collective regulation and work activity strategies” - D. Demazière, D. Mercier

Didier Demazière, Delphine Mercier
Laboratoire Printemps, CNRS-Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 47, bd Vauban, 78047 Guyancourt Cedex, France
Laboratoire d’Economie et de sociologie du travail (Lest), 35, av.Jules-Ferry, 13626 – Aix-en-Provence, France

Available online 26 July 2006 on ScienceDirect

The work of mailmen is mainly defined by the delivery routes they are assigned. Since this special organization of work grants them broad autonomy, the processes for delimiting, defining, and conducting routes, must be analyzed by taking into account observations from three levels. The first one focuses on the French Post Office’s managerial standards, though, increasingly determined by objectives for making a profit, have little impact on mail deliverer’s activities. The second centers around this occupational group’s own regulation which stem from a hierarchy based on seniority and control over mail delivery and routes. The third level of observation takes into view the strategies for delivering mail that postmen adopt on their routes. These strategies reflect different relations to managerial objectives and to consumers ; and they reveal contrasting conceptions of the job of delivering mail. Emphasis is laid on the fact that the situations for working at lower levels in the service sector cannot be separated from the factors defining and organizing these situations.

Keywords : Mail deliverers ; Service sector job ; Occupational group ; The organization of work ; Customers ; Public service ; French Post Office

Article Outline

  • 1. Overseeing and managing mail carriers’ performance : instruments with little effect
    • 1.1. Working hours and productivity
    • 1.2. Operating procedures and service reliability
    • 1.3. Commercial incentives and profitability
    • 1.4. Variety of practices and customer relations
  • 2. Collective regulation : the weight of seniority
    • 2.1. Learning on the job
    • 2.2. Starting up in the profession by “buying” one’s zone
    • 2.3. Getting a “good” route and settling into it
  • 3. Work meanings and activity strategies
    • 3.1. A “marketman out on his territory”
    • 3.2. A human-contact job
    • 3.3. A tradesman managing his business
    • 3.4. Just postal workers
  • 4. Conclusion
  • Références

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 48, Supplement 1, August 2006, Pages e1–e21
Translation by Amy Jacobs