Temporal Dominance: Controlling Activity Cycles When Time Is Scarce, Sudden, and Squeezed

Jared T. Jensen, Shelbey L. Rolison, Joshua B. Barbour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constant interaction, digital interruptions, and shrinking time to think and act characterize much of present-day communication. The management of time pressures is a key concern for contemporary workers as work responsibilities encroach on each other and other domains of life. This study focuses on how individuals and collectives try to exert control over time through communication. An analysis of observational and interview data (N = 26) at a health research organization revealed that workers encountered cyclical, pervasive temporal structures marked by commotion: a blur of jarring, immediate tasks that require intense communication. As workers sought to make time for sustained focus, these pervasive temporal structures stymied their efforts. The findings contribute to communication theory by illuminating relationships among organizing, time, and control. This study provides metalanguage that facilitates the description and examination of temporal activity, and it describes a form of temporal control that was evident across hierarchal roles. Power differences explained the efficacy and agency of team members’ choices to manage busy, disrupted, and fast-paced work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-61
Number of pages32
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • constant connectivity
  • engaged research
  • information communication technologies
  • temporality
  • time
  • work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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