Why employees work extended working hours: A discourse study

Neal Waddell (2008). Why employees work extended working hours: A discourse study , School of Business, The University of Queensland.

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n39344106_PhD_abstract.pdf Abstract of Completed Thesis application/pdf 13.94KB 5
n39344106_PhD_totalthesis.pdf Completed Thesis application/pdf 1.61MB 25
Author Neal Waddell
Thesis Title Why employees work extended working hours: A discourse study
School, Centre or Institute School of Business
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-11
Supervisor Dr Bernard McKenna
Dr David Rooney
Total pages 257
Total colour pages 19
Total black and white pages 238
Subjects 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Abstract/Summary The expectation that employees of large organisations will work extended working hours (EWH) is a phenomenon of discourse at the societal and organisational levels. This occurs in spite of the detrimental effects that working long hours can have on employees’ mental and physical health and the well-being of their families. This thesis investigates why employees comply with this expectation by focussing on managers and professionals because they are the categories of Australian employees who work the longest hours. Texts derived from a focus group and extended interviews of 30 managers and professionals are analysed and interpreted using a computer-assisted text analysis program, linguistic analysis, and discourse linguistic interpretation. Of particular emphasis is the deontic modality that research participants use to express their obligation to expectation and their attitudes about other organisational imperatives. Also crucial to this research is the agency of the participants in terms of their capacity to make and follow their own decisions. This investigation is informed by critical post-structuralist theory of Foucaultian origin involving a pragmatic distinction between analysis for meaning potential at the text level and context for meaning at the discourse level. This empirical research found that participants commonly feel cognitive dissonance from the contradiction that EWH and work-life balance (WLB) co-exist in their same organisational discourse. This paradox complicates their responses to expectation whether the participants comply or resist. Participants’ agency is therefore judged on their level of reflexivity to these organisational challenges. The professional cohort was found to be more reflexive and thus agentically stronger because their work paths are clearer. They know what work is required and, even though their working hours may be long, they see them purely as the means to achieving prescribed ends. Public sector managers’ work is also extensive but they do not have clear boundaries and thus find the boundaries between work and nonwork non-existent or blurred. Financial service managers are more agentic than public sector managers but less than the professionals. The women in this research relate to work time and life balance differently and less easily than men, particularly those who break for motherhood and / or work part-time. The theory built in this thesis can inform organisations of the ubiquitous presence of the expectation of EWH and the dangers it provides for employees and organisations. It also provides practice guidance to organisations as to how EWH may be common but do not necessarily benefit organisations or their employees. This thesis finds that it is more sensible to support employees’ agency by acknowledging their diversity and giving them choice in determining for how long they should work. This would allow employees to identify and experience obligation to their organisation and their part in negotiated knowledge production.
Keyword extended working hours, discourse, expectation, obligation, work-life balance, agency, Leximancer, qualitative research, managers, professionals
Additional Notes Pages to be printed in colour are: 31, 34, 46, 80, 94, 104, 132, 200, 242, 243, 246, 247, 249, 250, 252, 253, 254, 256, and 257; Pages to be printed in landscape format are: 31 and 200. [note that these are also pages to be printed in colour]

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Created: Fri, 26 Jun 2009, 11:22:41 EST by Mr Neal Waddell on behalf of Library - Information Access Service