Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2006, page 79-94.
English resume

Employees in change

Human Resource Management in the Public Sector

Louise Haugan Vergo

This article discusses the governing practices of modernised public organisations and their implications for the employees and labour market. The analytical approach is based on the governmentality-perspective, as constructed by Michel Foucault and the frames of power/freedom as have been developed by Foucault.

In the past decade, Human Resource-inspired techniques have entered the public sector in an attempt to obtain higher degrees of efficiency, flexibility and development. This has resulted in ongoing restructurings, and a desire to involve employees and their resources in this process. The article is based on results from a thesis made in 2004 undertaking an empirical study at a Danish psychiatric hospital. These results show how the practices of governing seek to form the employees as subjects who govern themselves and adopt personal responsibility in relation to the goals of the organisation.

The conclusions are that the accepted norms inscribed through the governing techniques have dividing effects, as the employees act on the norms in practice. The most valued practices become the visible work of developing the restructuring process. A distinction develops between ‘the developers’ and ‘the rank-and-file’, where the latter performs the less visible work with the patients, and become marginalized. Furthermore, the larger, more comprehensive projects initiated by the authorities and the top-management, tend to take time away from projects developed in direct relation to the patients and their needs. Furthermore results show a tendency where differences in interests between employer and employee become difficult to detect.

The article and thesis speaks in favour of a wider frame for the possibility of the public employee to consider himself a ‘good employee’, and attempts to open a discussion about the employees welfare in the public workplace, in general. The article presents methods and questions to help open such discussions. In general focusing on paradoxes is suggested to facilitate a reflected discussion of public service and development of the public sector in relation to the local government reform.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt