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From good work to sustainable development

Human resources consumption and regeneration in the post-bureaucratic working life

Mari Kira

Kungl. Tekniska Högskolan 2003 522 s.
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

The thesis concentrates on the psychological consequences of the contemporary work. Two focal question of the thesis are, first, why do employees' psychological resources become consumed in the contemporary working life? Second, how to create regenerative work enabling employees' development in the present situation? The latter question aims to distinguish the conditions for sustainable individual and collective development at work. The empirical research consists of two studies; the Empirical Study I with explorative case studies in two "new economy" companies and the Empirical Study II with action research case studies in a public hospital and a tenants' union. In the Empirical Study II, the case organizations defined their problems relating to human resources consumption. The subsequent action research projects aimed to work on these problems and to generate ideas for regenerative work.
The case studies indicate that many contemporary working life problems relate to fundamental changes at work. Confined bureaucratic work is gradually changing into more complex and boundaryless work. Instead of bureaucratic impersonality, such work requires comprehensive personal presence from employees. However, organizational arrangements have not followed the development. Organizational structures and practices are still aimed at controlling and guiding compartmentalized, stable work. Consequently, post-bureaucratic work realities exist in bureaucratic work organizations; the clashes between the two operation logics lead to negative consequences at individual and organizational levels.
The thesis studies the reasons for the gap between bureaucratic organizational logic and post-bureaucratic work logic. Furthermore, organizational and individual approaches leading to more comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful work are explored. When it comes to organizational approaches, there does not seem to exist a certain structure for a post-bureaucratic organization; such an organization is a state of collective and individual mind rather than a fixed solution. At individual level, bureaucratic thinking has to grow into post-bureaucratic thinking at all hierarchical levels. Responsibility taking and complex thinking are needed. Mental models enabling versatile functioning within an organization are required.