This article assesses the claims of the management literature regarding two important aspects of front line service work; job content and relations with the immediate supervisor. It does this, firstly, by examining the relevant research literatures and, secondly, by presenting evidence from two firms based in Australia and from one based in Japan. These firms were chosen as approximating to the ideal type of the 'new model service firm'. Evidence on knowledge, skills and creativity in the three sites suggests important commonalities with, and differences from, the 'routine worker' ideal type. the major difference lay in the considerable amount of internal contextual knowledge that was required in the role. Relations with the immediate supervisor were examined by focusing on the social relations of control and learning. the evidence on control and learning, cumulatively, indicated a tendency towards the supervisor adopting less of a direct control role and adopting more of a hierarchical teaching role.