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High job demands, low support: Social work praktice realities in public social services in Crete
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Social Welfare.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of the present thesis is to gain an understanding of the working life of social workers working in public social services in Crete. It is a three-phase study, consisting of three distinct but related research parts; each research part is built upon issues and questions derived from the preceding part. In this work, both quantitative and qualitative approaches were employed. Theoretical perspectives regarding the impact of the welfare environment on social welfare workers’ behaviour and on their well being as well as gender aspects of welfare work constitute the main theoretical framework.

The findings of this thesis reveal the significant impact of the organisational environment on social workers’ well being, on their effectiveness as well as on their coping behaviour with unsatisfactory organisational conditions. The main sources of social workers’ dissatisfaction were organisational and extrinsic work aspects; their main sources of satisfaction were intrinsic work aspects. Social workers found themselves facing ethically difficult situations arising from the organisations’ inability to cover clients’ needs as well as from difficulties concerning interprofessional relationships with their superiors or physicians.

The most common pattern of coping that social workers used in order to deal with unsatisfactory organisational conditions was the ‘active defensive’ kind of adjustment aiming mainly at offering clients temporary relief. They adjusted their work attitudes to reflect lower expectations of their work. As their professional orientation called for altruistic behaviour towards clients, social workers tried to find solutions within the resource constraints they encountered; they did not risk trying to change the limitations imposed by the employing agencies. Certain common beliefs, such as that offering clients temporary help was the best they could do under the organisational circumstances, contributed to the forming of a dominant view: “the culture of silence”, which resulted in the perpetuation of unsatisfactory organisational conditions.

There were influences on social workers’ coping behaviour which affected them in order to accept limitations in their work rather than challenge them. The inability of welfare programmes to cover social needs, organisational factors, factors related to gender and the insufficient amount of social workers’ knowledge limited their potential for intervention in order to improve unsatisfactory conditions. The most common patterns of coping resulted in the partial covering of clients’ needs. Social workers who used active strategies experienced frustration due to their limited effectiveness and the perpetuation of the organisational problems; most of them wanted to quit working in the organisation. The high job demands they experienced due to their efforts to deal with organisational constraints along with the low level of job control resulted in emotional exhaustion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Socialt arbete , 2005. , 268 p.
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 45
Keyword [en]
Keywords: social workers, job satisfaction, ethical dilemmas, patterns of coping, job demands, job control.
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-622ISBN: 91-7305-971-4OAI: diva2:144015
Public defence
2005-11-25, Samvetet, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00
Available from: 2005-11-03 Created: 2005-11-03Bibliographically approved

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