Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 2 2007, page 38-54.
English resume

Influence and knowledge work

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Ole H. Sørensen, Anders Buch, Peter Holdt Christensen og Vibeke Andersen


Increasingly, it is reported that well-educated knowledge workers suffer from serious work-related stress. This appears to be a paradox, because the group of knowledge workers should not be at serious risk of developing stress according to the often used job-strain model (demand-control model). Knowledge work is typically characterized by high decision latitude. The article illustrates how the concept of stress has been historically associated with heterogeneous networks of interests, and that it is being reconstructed continuously. The strength of the stress concept can be attributed partly to its indeterminate and imprecise character that makes it possible to use stress within several different and sometimes contradictory societal contexts. It is argued that the job-strain model is developed within a narrower network of interests. It represents a compromise between productive and occupational health and safety interests. The model is developed as a job-design model that promotes higher decision latitude for industry workers. It shows that high influence reduces job-strain by increasing workplace learning and the feeling of mastery in active jobs. Thereby, productivity can be maintained with an “acceptable” level of stress. The article argues that the model  primarily operates with control within rather than control over work. Knowledge workers typically have control within their jobs. However, they might not have high control over job demands. Because of the high demands and the high control within work, knowledge work is usually categorized as an active job. Knowledge workers are thereby excluded from serious stress – according to the job-strain model. In the article, it is argued that it is difficult to redefine the decision latitude dimension. It is further argued that at high levels of demands and influence the model is misleading. There is evidence that at high levels, influence becomes a demand. Thereby, the demand and control dimensions conflate. It is concluded that knowledge workers need a job-design model that suggests other alternatives than increased influence within work, and it is important that stress is not left as an individual coping problem.



Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)


 

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