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Silent Teachers in the Wake of Deregulation

One consequence of the deregulation of the Swedish school system is that teachers have become more hesitant to report problems. This is reported in a new study from the University of Gothenburg.

As part of the study, which is now being finalised, the two researchers P-O Börnfelt and Susanne Fransson interviewed 89 employed individuals, of which half were from the school sector.

At one-third of the studied workplaces, the interviewees reported that it is difficult to present objective criticism regarding work conditions to management. They also reported problems influencing decision making, since management staff often get defensive or even try to inflict reprisals in response to criticism.

'Managers who are not open to criticism generally act based on a traditional, hierarchical view of organisations where managers make decisions and the subordinates are expected to comply without complaining,' says researcher P-O Börnfelt.

Admittedly though, some management staff do see criticism as a necessary part of an open and free discussion that in the end leads to improvements. However, the competition between organisations, as a result of deregulation in the teaching and caring sectors, is discouraging criticism.

'Trademark is important, which implies that for example teachers are pressured to help promote their schools,' says Börnfelt.

The study also shows that the introduction of individualised pay schemes is another factor that has effectively reduced the provision of criticism. Several studied individuals never voice their opinions about problems at work since they do not want to come across as whiny, as it may put them in a bad position next time it is time to negotiate their salary.

Even if the changes can be traced back to deregulations, it is not only within the private alternatives that the critical voices have faded. In many cases, managers in the public sector tries to hinder employees to use their lawful right to report critique outside the organisation.

'The trend is problematic, since the ultimate purpose of the right to criticise is to improve the way things are done,' says Börnfelt.

For more information please contact: P-O Börnfelt, PhD in Work Science, employed at the Department of Sociology and Work Science until 1 March, currently serving as an independent consultant. Telephone: +46 (0)733 75 95 00 E-mail: per-ola.bornfelt@av.gu.se

idw :: 16.05.2012