My research is about how organizational identities such as client, patient, doctor, manager etc. reflect organizational factors and dynamics. As I see it, clients’ and staffs’ behaviour are the result of classification processes that are influenced by organizational norms as well as by management tools, dominating discourses and other structural factors. Although I emphasise norms, discourses and structures in organizations, my approach is situated in the everyday life where people meet. Given this focus on practice, my theoretical inspiration primarily stems from symbolic interactionism. This micro sociological approach generates relevant insights into how human resources and perceptions of ‘normal’ behaviour relate to different organizational factors and processes. I combine symbolic interactionism with other research traditions, for instance, with sociological and organizational studies of the body, risk, professions and power.
The subtle aspect of power is crucial in my studies of how identities interrelate with organizational factors. One of my recent research projects on disability and work shows the subtle aspect of power through the concepts of ‘othering’ (article in Human Relations), ‘caring’ (article in Work, Employment & Society) and ‘stereotyping’ (article in Gender, Work & Organization). The articles display that ‘helping’ and ‘caring’ for people in organizations may result in complex marginalization processes and the (unintentional) strengthening of existing power relations.
What has puzzled me the most when doing my rich ethnographic work, particularly in the public sector, is the often contradictory norms of what constitutes ‘normalcy’ – ‘normal’ behaviour and perceptions – for different groups of organizational members. When observing and interviewing, I have found the existence of very different norm systems that stem from the ideal-type bureaucracy, the market and popular psychology. I examine these norm systems in my recent book, The Power of Citizens and Professionals in Welfare Encounters: The Influence of Bureaucracy, Market and Psychology, published with Manchester University Press in 2017.