RESISTANCE TO CHANGES AND LEARNING IN SOCIAL CARE ORGANIZATIONS

A. Svensson , K. Grundén, L.G. Larsson

University West (SWEDEN)
Municipality social care faces some challenges in recent times due to demographic changes and technological advances. Welfare technology is implemented in the social care, and this fact is transforming the work practice to a great extent. The established work practice is challenged, when learning processes is needed in this transformation, as the competence of the staff needs to be developed. These changes will thus demand learning as well as unlearning. Resistance to changes can create power struggles at the workplace. In social care organizations we have found some examples where power games emerge by groups of staff in relation to their managers when changes in the work practice are planned, and that could also affect motivation among the staff.

The work practice is often based on old structures, where managers are permitting the staff to self organize and conduct their work in their own manner. Values in the groups of staff have been developed during a long period of time, as a kind of culture at the workplace, where many of the staff have been working for several years at the same workplace. These structures and values also affect the behavior of both managers and the staff, where of course managers are interested to legitimate behavior that is favoring to the local context. When the society now is requiring changes, the old structures and values will be questioned, and have to be reassessed and replaced. Established structures and values cannot be continued to endure any longer. Thus, the managers have to have turn around the established cultures at the workplace. This situation can push power games to occur, between managers and groups of staff. Power games among professionals in organizations are studied in different contexts, but are quite neglected in social care contexts where learning has to occur when transformations of the work practice are going on.

This phenomenon at workplaces in social care organizations is invisible at the first sight. Moreover, it is quite hidden in the organization as such aspects related to structures and values are not often openly discussed at the workplace. Thus, it is difficult to reflect around such a real situation in practice. This will imply the difficulties in studying such cases dealing with hidden agendas hold by different groups at a workplace.

The aim of this paper is from a theoretical perspective suggest how to conduct a study in work practices associated with social care when transformations and learning has to occur, focusing on resistance and power games among managers and groups of staff.

The study requires closeness to the empirical field as well as collaboration and intervention with practitioners, which characterizing both action and practice research and its variants. The challenges within the social care organizations are of socio-technical character where learning and change should be obtained. The research is guided by an interest for improvement and clarification, and to contribute both to the research community and to the work practice. The collaboration and mutual learning would follow an inquiry process where the researchers will have to introduce themselves carefully, as the practitioners are not asking the researchers for help. Instead, the upper management are interested in solving the challenges with implementation of technology and transformation of work practice.