From Good Work to Sustainable Development - Human Resources Consumption and Regeneration in the Post-Bureaucratic Working Life

University dissertation from Stockholm : Industriell ekonomi och organisation

Abstract: The thesis concentrates on the psychological consequences ofthe contemporary work. Two focal question of the thesis are,first, why do employees’psychological resources becomeconsumed in the contemporary working life? Second, how tocreate regenerative work enabling employees’developmentin the present situation? The latter question aims todistinguish the conditions for sustainable individual andcollective development at work. The empirical research consistsof two studies; the Empirical Study I with explorative casestudies in two »new economy« companies and theEmpirical Study II with action research case studies in apublic hospital and a tenants’union. In the EmpiricalStudy II, the case organizations defined their problemsrelating to human resources consumption. The subsequent actionresearch projects aimed to work on these problems and togenerate ideas for regenerative work.The case studies indicate that many contemporary workinglife problems relate to fundamental changes at work. Confinedbureaucratic work is gradually changing into more complex andboundaryless work. Instead of bureaucratic impersonality, suchwork requires comprehensive personal presence from employees.However, organizational arrangements have not followed thedevelopment. Organizational structures and practices are stillaimed at controlling and guiding compartmentalized, stablework. Consequently, post-bureaucratic work realities exist inbureaucratic work organizations; the clashes between the twooperation logics lead to negative consequences at individualand organizational levels.The thesis studies the reasons for the gap betweenbureaucratic organizational logic and post-bureaucratic worklogic. Furthermore, organizational and individual approachesleading to more comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful workare explored. When it comes to organizational approaches, theredoes not seem to exist a certain structure for apost-bureaucratic organization; such an organization is a stateof collective and individual mind rather than a fixed solution.At individual level, bureaucratic thinking has to grow intopost-bureaucratic thinking at all hierarchical levels.Responsibility taking and complex thinking are needed. Mentalmodels enabling versatile functioning within an organizationare required.KEY WORDS:good work, personal development, professionaldevelopment, stress, human resources, regenerative work,consuming work, bureaucracy, post-bureaucracy, actionresearch.