Théron Christelle, Cabantous Laure
Attention as a local performance: Towards a practice-based view of attention in organizations

Managerial attention has often been conceived as a scare resource, which direction is shaped by the environment and the firms’ procedural and communication channels. In this paper, we leverage insights from research on situated cognition and practice studies to offer a new conceptualization of attention as a local performance. This conceptualization emerges from our empirical study of managerial work in the call center of a large European electricity company. We show that operational managers pay attention to their coworkers and the firm’ operational objectives through three types of adverting practices – sensory-awakening, remembering and propagating –, which involve the body and the socio-material features of the local environment. Overall, our analysis suggests that attentional processing is a performance since it shows that ‘paying attention’ to something is a type of work associated to socio-material and embodied practices. In addition it suggests that this performance is local, since attention is always situated and takes place during ‘attentional episodes’. In conceptualizing managerial attention as a local performance, we contribute to the attention-based view by showing that attentional processing is not just structurally determined, but also implies agency (through adverting practices). We also contribute to the literature on the qualities of attention and the managerial work behaviour literature by showing that managers can extend their attentional abilities by mobilizing the socio-material features of their environment. In this way, our study reveals a degree of proactivity in their daily work rather overlooked so far.