Thriving at work: A call center study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Committee Chair

Timothy Reymann

Committee Member

Tami Moser

Committee Member

Michelle Geiman


The purpose of this research was to explore why some agents can experience thriving in a call center. The intended outcome was to determine what could be gleaned and used for the development of interventions that organizations could implement to improve the conditions for thriving to be experienced. Existing research indicated that for thriving to be experienced, vitality and learning had to occur in concert (Porath et al., 2012). The high call volumes, compounded by continuous multi-tasking and emotional labor can be exhausting work (Molino et al., 2016; U.S. Contact Center, 2016; Valle & Ruz, 2015; Zhan, Wang, & Shi, 2016). This high emotional labor was observed as one of the leading causes of burnout, resulting high rates of turnover (Abid et al., 2015, 2016; Molino et al., 2016). Call center agents are required to perform the functions of active listening, demonstrating empathy, typing/documenting, navigating systems, formulating responses, de-escalating emotionally-charged customers, and moving the calls forward quickly and repetitively (Jacobs & Roodt, 2011; Molino et al., 2016; U. S. Contact Center, 2016). How the study participants felt, learned, and managed the demands of the job and still experienced levels of thriving in the emotionally-charged venue of the call center environment were explored. The results of the qualitative research revealed two over-arching attributes among the study participants that seemed to have caused their ability to experience thriving – transformational learning and heedful relating. Breaking these two elements down into chunks, five critical elements that contributed to thriving at work in the call center were observed and translated into actionable interventions for future use in call center organizations. The five elements of focus were (a) sense-making; (b) heedful relationships; (c) managing the emotions of self and others; (d) learning styles; and (e) organizational culture.