Accepted Paper:

Stress-management in the flexible work-ethic  


Kirsten Marie Bovbjerg (Ã…rhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Stress-coping in companies has in recent decades developed as a big market along with the increases experience of stress among modern employees. Consultants in psychic work environment, psychotherapists, coaches, meditation-trainers offer trainee-programmes for managers and employees. This paper will discuss stress-coping discourse within flexible work.

Paper long abstract:

A variety of techniques that are rooted in organizational psychology, psychotherapy and New Age philosophy have been applied in private and public organizations. Personal development shows an increasing interest in other aspects of an employee's competence than the professional qualifications. Courses in personal development often have a therapeutic dimension, deliberately intended to change people's behaviour or self-perception by a particular method. From studies in stress-coping techniques the idea of 'personal development' is suggested by consultants as a way to overcome modern employee's experience of stress. Still the experience of stress is increasing among all kind of workers in most parts of the Western world in spite of access to stress-coping-tecniques in companies.

From a Foucault inspired critical perspective I have examined the use of personal development courses and stress-coping in work life. How does the relation between employee and employer develop under the flexible capitalism and how does is influence modern employee's. Along with the increasing interest in the cultivation of the Self stress-coping and personal development build on ideas of personal growth that goes very well with the ideas of flexible organizations and the neo-liberal idea of economic growth. My aim in this paper is to elucidate the consequences of the emergence of a new ethic of sensitivity through courses in personal development and what it means for ideas about stress-coping and how it is practiced in working life.

Panel W057
Flexible capitalism: new forms of mutuality and diversity at work?