First line supervision : Intermediate position, divided loyalty, and strategies of action in three organizations

University dissertation from Department of Sociology, Lund University

Abstract: This doctoral dissertation concerns supervisors, i.e. first line mangers, in three different organizations within the public sector - a Samhall sheltered employment workshop, a municipality home-help service and a hospital clinic. The focus of my dissertation is the intermediate position of the supervisors and the strategies they use to manage their jobs in such a position. What all supervisors have in common is that they have operative responsibility for performing a number of tasks. To be able to fulfil this responsibility, supervisors try to create their own resources and give to their intermediate position a kind of autonomy. The strategies they choose to deal with various situations can then be looked upon as an attempt to gain some room to manoeuvre and a chance to control these situations. My main question has been formulated as follows: What strategies do the various supervisors develop in their intermediate position and how can these strategies be explained and understood? Data has been collected through personal interviews, studies of literature and of documents such as job descriptions, personnel plicy programmes, internal reports etc. Personal interviews were chosen, since my purpose was to arrive at the complexity of the supervisors´concrete everyday situations. In my dissertation it is the supervisors´views and experiences that I first of all want to describe. However, in order to reach a deeper understanding of their situation, I have also chosen to interview superordinate managers, employees and union representatives. In a way it can, of course be said that the supervisors in the three organizations I have studied are faced with similar problems in their work situation. They have been faced with situations where they have found themselves "in a tight squeeze" and with problematic situations containing contradictory elements. On the other hand, it was also evident that the problems they had to deal with in their daily work were of diverse kinds. They also had access to very dissimilar resources for dealing with these problems.

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