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Work and identity in knowledge based work and organizations Einar B. Baldursson Clinical Occupational Health Psychologist.

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Presentation on theme: "Work and identity in knowledge based work and organizations Einar B. Baldursson Clinical Occupational Health Psychologist."— Presentation transcript:

1 Work and identity in knowledge based work and organizations Einar B. Baldursson Clinical Occupational Health Psychologist

2 The logic of stress – twofold non-specificity  Stress does not distinguish between stressors. From the viewpoint of stress stressors are the sum of frequency, duration and intensity of stressors  This viewpoint eliminates the need to perceive the structure and interrelationship between stressors  Stress does not indicate in which manner the organism might develop a dysfunctional state (illness) during prolonged or intensive periods of psychological and biological stress  This means that there is no obvious way in which specific outcomes can be explained within the logical paradigm of stress  From this point of view it is impossible to distinguish between general stress-disorders, and more specific outcomes such as burn-out and depression

3 Den ubestemmelige følelse af stress

4 Towards one-dimensional multiselv Formerly socialization was characterized by at multitude of identity formative social factors The family, school, the neighbourhood, trade union, cultural and political activities created to a number of distinct domains of personal expression and identity. In modern society children grow up in an institutional environments characterized by a structures framework where adults and/or rules and rituals create the framwork that defines the space within which the individual can express her- or himself, overwhelmingly in a controlled social environment. The role of the family is decreasing and there is little or no connection between ”who you are”, where you live and what you do. The multiple self has been replaced by a social self in which the central axis increasingly is work.

5 New reactions and consequences  The increasingly social character of work organisation means that social differences become enlarged  When personal identity and the work-role merge, even small conflicts and challenges become a personal problem  When personal identity increasingly is based on work related identity, problems at work become problems in and with personal identity  The increasing pace through which knowledge and qualifications become obsolete means that acquired social status increasingly becomes challenged  Resources like creativity, motivation and involvement deplete fast, but are only slowly regenerated. These resources are highly sensitive to stress

6 Stressors in knowledge intensive work  Increasingly fuzzy borders between: work and leisure time home and work role and identity  Increasing demands for: social and work related competence and flexibility  Competences become obsolete in an increasing pace  Expensive expertise becomes valueless  Training is mainly oriented towards the needs and abilities of younger employees  The specific problems associated with regaining lost or devaluated expertise are ignored

7 Specific problems in knowledge intensive work  Following enduring strain and conflicts we see:  Mood changes - flattening/loss of joy  Loss of identity and self confidence  Enduring state of psychological exhaustion  Problems in memory and attention  shorter attention span  problems in short-term memory  slower and more error prone long-term memory  Consequence:  Los of competence and learning ability

8 Memory Impairment Syndrome - three levels  First phase (prevalence during one year - almost 100%): short periods of severe strain or longer periods with increased strain symptoms diminish quickly  Second phase (prevalence approximately 30%): Longer periods of mid-level strain or several consecutive periods of severe strain symptoms decrease slowly, lowered stress tolerance  Third phase (prevalence approximately 7-15%): long uninterrupted periods of severe strain or episodes characterized by crisis and conflict at work the affected person requires 4-8 months to recover and as a rule psychological treatment is required there are indications that these episodes involve lasting changes in memory and learning capacity

9 Memory Impairment Syndrome - symptoms  Lightly affected: Increased anxiety, decreasing productivity and loss of overview  Medium affected: Loss of experienced competence, self-confidence and overview Fear of making mistakes, increasing tendency to selecting well known solution, certain rigidity, avoids challenges and Increasing forgetfulness and problems in co-operative work relations  Heavily affected: Crisis of identity, loss of sense of time The client experiences gaps in memory, has difficulties in keeping up in social situation, finds it difficult to read newspapers and can often not read subtexts on TV Develops traumatic relation to work, many want to leave the computer industry Experiences constant unease/arousal and feeling of physical and psychological exhaustion

10 Stress and the brain  The hippocampal formation is particularly sensitive to the effects of adrenal glucocorticoids secreted during chronic stress. The hippocampal sensitivity to stress has been extended to explain how stress can influence, change and disturb cognitive processes, especially in relation to memory. Chronic stress also seems to affect hippocampal-dependent learning.  The hippocampus has been described as placing the individual in the context of space and time. Damage to the hippocampus is associated with disassociation, defined as breakdown in memory, consciousness or identity.  Recent studies also indicate that not only hippocampus is affected and even damaged by stress hormones, but other modular brain structures as well. For instance stress induces impairment in cognitive functions in prefrontal cortex. The main symptoms are working memory impairment, poor attention regulation.

11 The brain, stress and depression  Recent brain research indicates that stress can affect the brain in a manner that predisposes the individual for developing depression, and may even cause depression directly  The hippocampus has specific receptors for stress hormones. The hippocampal formation is particularly sensitive to the effects of adrenal glucocorticoids secreted during chronic stress  Investigations with MRI of depressed patients have shown an increased frequency of generalised, as well as localised atrophy in the brains of depressed patients. This process involves hippocampus, which is particularly interesting because of the role of hippocampus for cognitive processes  There is now a broad consensus that stress through its impact on the brain contributes to (necessary, not sufficient) and can even cause depression directly (necessary and sufficient)

12  Through evolution our species has developed unique emotional abilities that are the basis of our ever increasing ability to sustain complex social systems  When these emotional subsystems are changed in a manner so that they no more can function as they were intended (selection), psychological illness is the consequence

13 Social stratification and depression  This approach points unequivocally to processes related to social stratification including those who affect individual goals and social identity as being responsible for the development of depression. Increasingly social goals are becoming a central part of modern work-identity. Knowledge based jobs are immersed in social structures in which traditional instrumentality is replaced by a work- orientation in which the valorisation of identity is central.  When combined with the theory that stress in itself can contribute to or even cause depression, the relevancy of this to organisational health becomes obvious.  This may very well be an important, even central part of the reorientation of Occupational Health Psychology to the new conditions that characterize modern work and organisation.

14 Model of stress and depression When depression arises as consequence of changes in social status or self-esteem after a period of draining of personal resources we see characteristic reactions in the form of negative self- esteem, symptoms of paranoia and increasingly aggressive behavior.

15 Anxiety Contradiction between on one hand attitudes and values and on the other hand the framework within which one has to work creates an unsolvable tension causing anxiety

16 Conclusion  Changes in society involve: New forms of socialization New technology New forms of work-organization  This means that personal, attributes, qualities and values become an important resource in work and production.  These resources are easily depleted and may even be destroyed through over utilization  Psychology comes into the forefront: We need new sustainable forms of human resource management.

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