Justifying the Authentic Self. Swedish Public Service Workers Talking About Work Stress

Elin K. Thunman, Marcus P. Persson


This study is based on in-depth interviews with 28 Swedish public service workers. With the help of narrative analysis, we explore how the workers use language to explain their subjective experiences of work stress. Based on a three-level typology, this article examines: 1. the narrative elements in the workers' talk about their stress; 2. the narrative strategies they use in positioning or presenting themselves as "stressed"; and 3. the function of the narratives in a societal context. The study shows the following main results: 1. the workers express feelings of shame when talking about their experiences of work stress; 2. they use justifying accounts, e.g. accepting responsibility for becoming ill; and 3. it is suggested that the public service workers' justifications reflect societal demands of being authentic and true to personal values, and that the dominating expressed value is about a public service ethos.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1501130


stress; public service workers; interview; narrative analysis; accounts; authenticity; public service ethos

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-16.1.2158

Copyright (c) 2015 Elin K. Thunman, Marcus P. Persson

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