Realities of working life : maintaining dignity and hope in the face of compromise for a job and a career

Pizer, M 2009, Realities of working life : maintaining dignity and hope in the face of compromise for a job and a career, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Realities of working life : maintaining dignity and hope in the face of compromise for a job and a career
Author(s) Pizer, M
Year 2009
Abstract The thesis begins with Leavitt's (2007) premise that business schools do not forewarn their students of the realities of working life. Even for those with "successful" careers, it comprises both rewards and disappointments. It is argued that relationships at work are central to those rewards and disappointments and can help or hinder individuals in bringing their best selves to the tasks required of them. The intent of the thesis is to describe the intrapersonal experience of these realities of working life using a relational lens.

The thesis is based on a multi-paradigm inquiry and comprises three studies. Initially, a functionalist study using survey research methods was conducted to select research participants. An interpretive study followed. It involved the use of direct and indirect interview methods for accessing the personal, lived experience of ten participants.

The aim of this study was to assess the applicability of Josselson's (1992) multidimensional model of relatedness for the workplace. The model is concerned with identifying the range of relational needs people have of one another and the affective consequences of those needs being met or not. It potentially addresses the gap in the literature of a relational framework that integrates motivational and emotional factors, as well as the more commonly researched cognitive factors. The study found support for the application of Josselson's model to the workplace, modified to include the task system.

The third study was an interpretive study involving a re-analysis of the interview data as a series of case studies. The analytic approach incorporated clinical, psychoanalytic concepts and Josselson's model as organising frameworks. Consideration of the organisational context was included as part of this study. This involved a smaller functionalist study using survey research methods.

This third study illustrates that compromising for a job and a career is an ordinary and pervasive experience. It is argued that dignity and hope in the face of such compromise is important for managing the assaults on identity that inevitably result.

The research describes the multiple ways that dignity is denied and preserved at work for each participant. It shows that each participant attempts to trade-off his/her particular experience of indignity in an attempt to experience work as dignified overall. It highlights that positive leader-member relations are critical for this experience.

The nature of these positive leader-member relations is discussed drawing on intersubjective theory (e.g. Benjamin, 1988; Orange, 2007). It is argued that they involve mutual recognition rather than the complementary relations of the master-slave dialectic.

In this study, only those in a low quality relationship with their appointed leader experience the indignity of being denied the opportunity to pursue their own career aspirations. It is the one indignity that could not be traded-off. It is a form of misrecognition by the leader that denies the individual the possibility of becoming who he/she wants to be in the organisational context. In this study, it is the knowledge that the opportunity is there, not taking it up, that matters for dignity as it provides career-related hope.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Quality of work life -- Case studies
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Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
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