Working-life - A paradox in Knowledge-Intensive Companies

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    A Working-Life Paradox in Knowledge Intensive Companies Keywords: Knowledge work, knowledge management, working-life, consulting companies. The purpose of this article is to identify the influence knowledge-work has on working life of the personnel in knowledge-intensive companies, more precisely general management and engineering consulting companies. A range of knowledge-intensive companies has been studied through qualitative interviews of key-actors on all organisational levels in order to characterise the knowledge-work and working-life, how occupational health and safety issues are dealt with and finally what causes real problems, if existing. Based on these case studies I have found that the way the consultants talk about their job opposed to what they actually experience, constitutes a paradox. When asked about their job, they regarded it to be a substantial part of their identity and expressed a great job satisfaction. At the same time they also expressed a number of problems such as frustration, a feeling of stress, experienced repeated faults, and lost valuable time due to searching for relevant knowledge. So evidently there was a mismatch between what was expressed and what was experienced, generally speaking. My analysis showed that this paradox was mainly due to the organisation and management of the knowledge-work. Working-life issues of current interest were mainly handled individually and in an unstructured and informal way, as they had no collective rooms for reflection and learning. Managers were only involved when working-life issues got out of hand. Besides, the formalised and mandatory occupational health and safety organisation was not addressed when it regarded psychosocial factors. So there seemed to be a side of the knowledge-work which was neither expressed explicitly nor collectively. However, when asked the consultants believed it to be their own responsibility or due to lack of resources if they did not fulfil their objectives, in terms of time, economy and project objectives. One consultant expressed it like this: “I have got a fantastic job, but it will kill me in the end if I don’t know where and when to draw the line myself.” The analysis of statements and observations shows that there seem to be a large span of causes to explain this paradox; lack of formal structures, culture of denial, pride, decentralisation, elitist community to name a few. The causes identified together with the informal handling of working-life problems makes it difficult to actually address and create interventions, which will improve the working-life conditions. However, a plausible way to solve this problem and level the paradox could be to integrate the management of the working-life in the daily management and organising of the knowledge-work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHaamaha
    Place of PublicationGalway
    Publication date2004
    Publication statusPublished - 2004
    Event9th International Conference on Human Aspects of Advanced Manufacturing: Agility and Hybrid Automation - National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
    Duration: 25 Aug 200427 Aug 2004
    Conference number: 9


    Conference9th International Conference on Human Aspects of Advanced Manufacturing
    LocationNational University of Ireland


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