The research is about the working style of the UK’s direct selling approach and its effects to the operatives, which in this case is the sellers. The research focuses mainly sellers views and sometimes how they feel, touching on the subject of the ‘low road’ flexibility within a specific area of the UK. The out come of the low road model led to a low level of employee control, the employees worry about working hours, the unpredictability of pay and continued employment.
The nature of the job involves ‘one off’ sales of high valued products, whereby the sellers (operatives) have to employ various strategies of proactive persuasion in order to generate and secure businesses for the Value Direct Selling Organisations (VDSOs). VDSOs sells different products which ranges from financial products to electrical goods and also property and home improvements. The study also explains that although no degree in study is needed to become an operative, a great deal of confidence in oneself is what is needed to close a deal in an occupational setting where deregulated work has been the long term norm.
Research methods employed An ethnographic study was carried out within the home improvement sector of the direct selling industry and the research was carried out over a period of three years. Participant observation method was used to produce an extended ethnographic account and most of the data were gathered within two sites, Mega Home Improvements (MHI) and Big Time Products (BTP). To promote confidentiality, all companies and the name of the individuals mentioned are pseudonyms and also exact locations were deliberately omitted.
One methodological issue concerning this piece of research was the decision to not abide by the principle of informed consent so that a covert role can be maintained. Although the use of a covert approach is legitimised in the research, any other approach would not have provided an accurate analysis and a non valid result had consent been taken such as misleading impressions, controlled information received, and access etc. Bone is firmly aware of his approach to this study and says it is methodologically justifiable.
However he remained very aware of the ethical issues this approach posed. Ethical concerns always emerge when planning research and ethics refers to the appropriateness of one’s behaviour in relation to the rights of those who become the subject of the work or are affected by it. Another definition of ethics is defined by Blumberg who states that it is the moral principles, norms or standards of behaviour that guide moral choices about our behaviour that guide moral choices about our behaviour and our relationships with them. Strengths and Weaknesses
Given that this was an ethnographic study, qualitative data was collected such as field notes, recording of information and quickly jotted notes. In this study the researcher was involved in both participation and observation to try and see things from the point of view of the samples he was observing. As Delbridge says ‘it’s about going there observing and experiencing it first hand. (Delbridge 1998:15) A weakness of using this type of approach for the study is that too much unwanted information can be collected, which can be time consuming to sift through and analyse.
Is the result valid? The result can be said to be valid because the data he collected is a true picture of what he intended to study. Validity refers to how accurate a research has been conducted. He also related to those he was observing by doing the same things they did. This typology is known as a complete participant. This is an observational role in which the researcher attempts to become a member of the group in which the research is being conducted and the true purpose of the research is not revealed to the group members. Is it reliable?
For this method of research which is an inductive case study the result can be said to be unreliable because the data collected is only interpreted by the researcher’s findings. Reliability according to Maylor and Blackman 2005 means that one or any another researcher would get the same findings if a study was repeated. Bone has written his opinions of how he has viewed the research which makes it valid but not reliable. Another researcher’s view may differ from his views or his views may also be different were he to repeat the study.
Strengths in ethnographic study are that it helps the researcher understand actions and meanings and put them in context due to the first hand experience they have in viewing the situation from the participants’ perspective. This study paid attention to the power the mangers have over the operatives and inequality in that arises in certain situation e. g. the manager allocating more menial tasks to employees who show signs of rebellion. It uses the data collected to generate ideas rather than starting off with preconceived propositions or hypothesis
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