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Strävan efter värdighet: En studie av servicearbete
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Striving for dignity : A study of service work (English)
Abstract [en]

The focus of this study is dignity in low status service work. Using labels such as bad jobs, McJobs and dirty work, these jobs have been described as low-skilled, low-paid, monotonous and physically demanding with lack of voice and no job security. Research on dignity at work is especially relevant in a time when different ambitions for more dignified work, initiated by political parties as well as unions, tend to be forgotten or down-prioritized.

This study investigates what conditions are preventing dignity among low status service workers and how they create and maintain dignity for themselves. What briefly has been found is that dignity can be prevented by unreasonable demands, constant control, exposed work and mismanagement. Moreover, customerprerogative can prevent dignity when employees are being mistreated by disrespectful customers. Dignity is also hindered by frightening customers, especially in the case of sexual harassment, threats and violence. In this study theories about working conditions and professional status are brought together to explain experiences of dignity at work. Service workers do not only have managers to deal with, but also customers whose treatment is reflected by the status of the service occupation. Besides, working conditions and professional status are two mechanisms acting together when it comes to experiences of dignity at work and may thus result in double tensions in daily work.


Acts for dignity, meaning different ways in which the service workers create and maintain dignity for themselves, are reactions to the obstacles to dignity at work. Three different categories of acts for dignity can be found. The identity-bolstering acts help the workers maintain their professional identity or self-image when it is threatened by different obstacles to dignity. The justifying acts mean that the workers legitimize different obstacles to dignity. Finally, the compensating acts help the workers to even out different obstacles to dignity.

Abstract [sv]

I denna studie fokuseras värdighet i serviceyrken längst ner i statushierarkin. De anställda behöver här hantera påfrestande arbetsförhållanden och brist på inflytande, men också servicemöten där kunders bemötande bottnar i samhällets nedvärderande syn på lågstatusyrken. Servicearbetarnas upplevelser av värdighet sker i interaktion med såväl chef som kund och i studien sammanförs teorier om både arbetsvillkor och yrkesstatus för att förklara hur värdighet hindras i servicearbete.

Trots olika hinder är servicearbetarnas strävan efter värdighet central och genom denna skapar och upprätthåller de värdighet i mötet med chef och kund. I studien presenteras tre kategorier av värdighetshandlingar. Identitetsfrämjande värdighetshandlingar hjälper den anställda att bevara sin bild av sig själv i arbetet när den hotas av olika värdighetshinder. Rättfärdigande värdighetshandlingar innebär istället att den anställda legitimerar eller förnekar olika värdighetshinder medan kompenserande värdighetshandlingar avser att väga upp för värdighetshinder. Annorlunda uttryckt kan värdighetshandlingarna beskrivas genom att de anställda skyddar sig från, omdefinierar respektive strider mot olika hinder för värdighet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2016. , 193 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 11
Keyword [en]
Dignity, service work, professional status
Keyword [sv]
Värdighet, servicearbete, yrkesstatus
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-40552ISBN: 978-91-7063-689-9OAI: diva2:903986
Public defence
2016-04-14, 11D121, Karlstad, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-03-24 Created: 2016-02-17 Last updated: 2016-05-23Bibliographically approved

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Lundberg, Helena
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