Tune in, Breakdown, and Reboot: On the Production of the Stress-Fit Self-Managing Employee

    Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling

    91 Downloads (Pure)


    Routine work‐process, lack of self‐management, and long work‐hours have traditionally been the main topics of discussion within the occupational stress literature, constituting the primary factors that make people breakdown and burn out. But within the last couple of years, this discussion has expanded its focus from issues concerning the disciplinary work‐space. Increasing attention is now being placed on the problems related to the burgeoning interest in employee empowerment and self‐management in contemporary work‐life. In short, how stress relates to self‐management. These working conditions, which put a great deal of emphasis on the subjectivity of the employee and the ability of the employee to self‐manage in a pursuit of an organization’s goals, are thus no longer regarded as something that decreases stress, but rather as something that evokes it. However, as this thesis argues, one can regard stress as more than a crisis we are faced with in our work‐life. It is also an element that co‐produces what it is to be a efficient employee‐subject within this work‐life. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s ontology of flows and machines, this sketches out how stress among self‐managing employees, and in particular the manner in which stress is reduced to a matter of individual coping, can be viewed as an organising process that separates, joins and codes the ontological fabric of our lives. In this regard, certain modes of existence centred on stress issues and the coping strategies of individuals are themselves produced as an individual responsibility for maximizing one’s own productivity as a self‐managing and committed employee. As I will argue, the production of this mode of existence of the employee‐subject revolves around the assumption of an employee subject that is able to tune its feelings, desires and thoughts in to a life of productivity without breaking‐down their body and soul. In fact, the potential break‐down of stress should act as an internal limit for personal productivity, as a way of rebooting to an ever more efficient self‐management. All in all, we can therefore talk of a production‐process revolving around the presumption of an always fitter, happier, more productive employee. The questions raised in the investigation of this particular form of production of subjectivity are: what notions of subjectivity as a productive resource are we presented with when not only self‐management but also the management of the stress this self‐management might entail becomes an underlying foundation for a flexible and efficient organization? What can an employee think, do and hope for under such circumstances? What are the dynamics that drive such a notion of subjectivity? And with what necessity does this notion set itself forth? All in all, the claim made in the thesis is that for this fitter, happier, and more productive employee, dealing with oneself and stress are primarily matters of individual responsibility and personal development. But by turning stress into matters of individual responsibility, happiness and productivity, one thereby misses some of the underlying ontological processes working within selfmanagement theories and practices. These processes are pre‐personal or preindividual in the sense that they outline ways we can be produced as individual subjects. These not only produce stress as a possibility for any particular individual to assume, they also convert stress‐issues amongst employees into matters of being unable to adequately contribute towards the organization, leading in turn towards an understanding of these issues as something best handled if employees can improve their own coping abilities. If they can better their own self. We can hence talk of a commitment machine that produces a zone of indiscernability between the subjectivity of the employee and the efficiency of the organization connecting up with a coping machine that frames problems within this zone as a matter of personal problems regarding one’s subjectivity. The coping machine serves to reinforce the production of the self‐managing employee by making the employees themselves each responsible for learning to take control of their own passion for working in the organization. The employee has to be passionate and committed, of course; but they now also have to distance themselves from this passion and commitment in order to perform well at their tasks. These passions are simultaneously considered both essential and problematic: the employee is both part of an ideal state and a pathological condition. The coping machine makes this pathological condition into a problem of personal commitment rather than making it a task for questioning how the production of the pre‐individual zone of indiscernability between the work and the employees’ subjectivity is itself set up by the commitment machine. In other words, the coping machine produces a mode of existence wherein stress results from an overemphasis, on the part of the employees, upon the commitment towards their work and from a failure to deploy the most appropriate selfmanagement technologies. The thesis can thus be said to be guided by three ambitions in its unfolding of this tune in, break‐down and reboot motion. First of all, to give an account of the inherent modes of existence produced within the contemporary organizational ideal of the committed self‐managing employee. This is done through a reading of various discussions about the management of employee subjectivity ranging from the self‐leadership literature focusing on self‐management as intrinsically motivating and enjoyable through to discussions of incitements to self‐manage and commit as a subtle ways to encroach and exploit the employee’s personal subjectivity to contemporary discussions of the new nature of capitalism and its focus on the active living forms of knowledge as the key to value‐production. The second ambition is to address a prevalent paradigm within the occupational stress and stress‐management literature, namely that of coping, as a reinforcement of this demand for a committed and self managing employee. This is done through a reading of some of the most influential scholars within stress and coping and best‐sellers on stress‐management. The third and final ambition is to describe this movement of reinforcement, or tune in, break‐down and reboot movement, through the Deleuzian notion of machines that in various dynamic ways produce and regulate ways of being or modes of existence. Consequently, it will be suggested that the nuts and bolts making up the relation between self‐management and stress is part of a mode of existence that sets up certain expectations about the problem of stress and the enterprise of dealing with stress as an individual productivity and enjoyment issue: being fitter, happier, and more productive rather than being regarded as part of the pre‐individual collective endeavor that constitutes us as these very subjects. Today in self‐management these machines of commitment and coping might produce us as a fitter, happier, and more productive subject. But this very machinic production that unleashes and confines our subjectivity as employees depends on an extremely unstable pre‐individual force. Tapping into this force always means that the foundation of these machines are themselves vulnerable and fragile, or as Deleuze might put it: we do not know yet what we are capable of as this fitter, happier, more productive employee, we do not know were the preindividual forces that animates the machines of commitment and coping might bring us, so we must tune in, breakdown, and reboot to find out. Besides a short introduction and a first chapter that highlight some of the most important notions in the thesis, such as self‐management, stress, subjectivity, modes of existence, pre‐individual forces and social machines, the thesis consists of three parts. The first part running from chapter two through five, is called Machines and Maps. Here I discuss the concept of machines as it is developed by Deleuze and Guattari. Of particular interest is their notion of a social machine. Also crucial is what a machinic approach in general implies when analyzing an object of research and how this approach is utilized to understand the production of subjectivity in contemporary work‐life. The second part Self‐management and the Commitment‐machine runs from chapter six to eleven. Here I outline two machinic indices of a self‐management, namely the ‘subjectivity’ and ‘commitment’ and the machinery that drives them; the commitment machine. In the third and last part Stress and the Coping‐machine, which runs from chapter twelve to fifteen, I shift my focus towards the two machinic indices of stress: ‘the somatic subject’ and ‘the coping processes’. I end up with a description of the coping machinery that drives these indices and how this machinery connects up with the commitment machine resulting in the production of the stress‐fit self‐managing employee.
    ForlagCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
    Antal sider272
    ISBN (Trykt)9788759383841
    StatusUdgivet - 2009
    NavnPhD series


    • Ph.d.-afhandlinger
    • Stress-arbejde
    • Arbejde-privatliv
    • Arbejdsliv
    • Medbestemmelse