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First-line managers’ practices and learning in unpredictable work within elderly care
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1756-2811
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9287-1561
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2887-8224
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2486-2663
2022 (English)In: Studies in Continuing Education, ISSN 0158-037X, E-ISSN 1470-126X, Vol. 44, no 3, p. 376-391Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite the number of studies confirming a high degree of unpredictability in managerial work, little is still known about how managers? workplace learning happens within organisations in such circumstances. This paper therefore aims to contribute knowledge about managers? learning in managerial practice when work is unpredictable, by investigating how first-line managers deal with unforeseen situations and how they learn in such circumstances in everyday work. Data was collected via qualitative interviews with 40 first-line managers in Swedish elderly care. By using a theoretical framework based on practice and workplace learning theories, the paper analyses how managers address unpredictability in work through three embedded practices: maintaining, modifying and inventing. The paper goes beyond research on leadership training and leadership development by contributing knowledge about the everyday learning of first-line managers when their work is unpredictable. The unpredictable managerial work does not always create chaos; instead, there are very orderly ways of learning from dealing with unforeseen situations. The unforeseen is not as unpredictable as it might seem in managerial work. On the other hand, that which is not yet known calls for an inventing practice, which results in managers learning to take new paths that can create new practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge , 2022. Vol. 44, no 3, p. 376-391
National Category
Media and Communications Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-172547DOI: 10.1080/0158037X.2020.1868990ISI: 000606945300001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85099342154OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-172547DiVA, id: diva2:1516926
Available from: 2021-01-13 Created: 2021-01-13 Last updated: 2024-02-02
In thesis
1. Learning Managerial Work: First-line Managers’ Learning in Everyday Work within Swedish Elderly Care
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning Managerial Work: First-line Managers’ Learning in Everyday Work within Swedish Elderly Care
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Lärande av chefsarbete : Första-linjechefers lärande i det dagliga arbetet inom svensk äldreomsorg
Abstract [en]

This study’s overall aim is to contribute knowledge about first-line managers’ learning in everyday work within the context of elderly care. The study used a qualitative research approach and was carried out within four Swedish elderly care organisations. A total of 40 first-line managers were interviewed, 10 of whom kept time-use diaries. The theoretical framework is based on a workplace learning perspective originating from theory of situated learning. Situated learning theory includes the concepts of community of practice, legitimate peripheral participation, and membership, which serve as analytical tools to illuminate characteristics of learning from various angles. In addition, the concept of gender has been used to gain a deeper understanding for managers’ workplace learning in the female-dominated elderly care context.

The findings showed that managers’ learning happened in a stream of varied tasks and interactions shaped by conditions in the workplace. The managers’ work was characterised by unpredictability and changing circumstances, which meant they continuously had to learn how to handle new situations and expand their repertoire of managerial practices. One common perception among themanagers was the importance of being able to make quick decisions with limited information, and assess the results afterwards. The managers learned how to deal with work situations by either maintaining and modifying current practices or inventing new ones. In addition to these three practices, their learning was affected by different conditions, particularly professional experience, work relationships and organisational conditions. The findings further showed that the managers had to learn to deal with expectations of how they should act in the managerial role based on their gender, and learn to navigate between gender ideals that permeated the female-dominated elderly care environment.

Three conclusions were drawn from this study. The first was that managers took great responsibility for their own learning, including what they needed to know and how they would learn it. Despite the fact that they all had access to resources provided by the employer, managers often chose alternative ways to learn, usually by relying on informal networks and close personal relationships. As a result of this self-directed learning, they were able to make decisions that suited their learning needs, and effectively proceed in practice without having to confirm their chosen methods.

The second conclusion was that work relationships played a central part in managers’ learning, within both the care work community and the first-line manager community. Work relationships with other first-line managers provided support for learning through, for example, knowledge exchange and joint discussions, as well as emotional support. Work relationships with subordinates were significant for learning, and could result in solutions to complex issues, which could have a direct effect on the daily operation of care work services. Due to the diverse mix of professions, varying interests, and formal positions of authority in the care work community, managers were required to devote considerable time and effort to facilitate collaboration and a shared repertoire. As a result, learning was seen as a stimulating and enjoyable experience, but was also demanding and sometimes boring.

The third conclusion was that in the context of the female-dominated elderly care gender operated differently in two communities of practices. Male privilege was still prominent in the care work community, as men were accepted and perceived as legitimate leaders among their subordinates. Female managers instead had to navigate and balance the expectations associated with femininity and the managerial role in this community. However, the female-dominated elderly care context provided female managers with more opportunities to connect with equal peers and establish influential positions, whereas male managers could encounter challenges in gaining access to learning and participating in the first-line manager community.

Abstract [sv]

Det övergripande syftet är att bidra med kunskap om första linjechefers lärande i det dagliga arbetet inom äldreomsorgen. Studien använde sig av en kvalitativ forskningsansats och genomfördes i fyra svenska äldreomsorgsorganisationer. Totalt intervjuades 40 första-linjechefer varav tio av dessa chefer förde tidsdagbok. Den teoretiska utgångspunkten är ett arbetsplatslärandeperspektiv med ursprung i teorin om situerat lärande. Situerad lärandeteori inkluderar begreppen praktikgemenskap, legitimt perifert deltagande och medlemskap, som fungerar som analytiska verktyg för att belysa lärande från olika vinklar. Dessutom har begreppet genus använts som ett analysverktyg för att förstå chefers arbetsplatslärande inom den kvinnodominerade äldreomsorgskontexten.

Resultatet visade att chefers lärande skedde i ett flöde av varierande arbetsuppgifter och interaktioner som formades av olika förutsättningar på arbetsplatsen. Chefernas arbete präglades av oförutsägbarhet och oförutsedda händelser, vilket innebar att cheferna kontinuerligt behövde lära sig att hantera nya situationer och utveckla sina chefspraktiker. En vanlig uppfattning bland cheferna var vikten av att kunna fatta snabba beslut med begränsad information och därefter utvärdera utfallet. Cheferna lärde sig att hantera arbetssituationer genom att upprätthålla eller utveckla befintliga praktiker eller uppfinna nya. Utöver dessa tre praktiker påverkades chefernas lärande av olika förutsättningar, i synnerhet: arbetserfarenhet, arbetsrelationer och organisatoriska förutsättningar. Resultatet visade också att cheferna behövde lära sig att hantera genusstereotypa förväntningar i relation till chefsrollen och kvinnodominansen i äldreomsorgen.

I avhandlingen dras tre slutsatser. Det första slutsatsen är att cheferna tog ett stort ansvar för sitt eget lärande, nämligen vad de behövde kunna och hur de skulle lära sig det. Trots att alla chefer hade tillgång till resurser från arbetsgivaren, valde cheferna ofta alternativa sätt att lära sig arbetet, vanligtvis genom informella nätverk och personliga relationer. Fördelen med att cheferna styrde sitt eget lärande var att de hade större frihet att anpassa lärandet till sina egna behov, utan att behöva bekräfta sina valda metoder i förväg.

Den andra slutsatsen är att arbetsrelationer spelade en central roll för chefers lärande, både inom omsorgsarbetsgemenskapen och chefsgemenskapen. Relationen med andra första linjechefer utgjorde ett viktigt stöd för lärande genom till exempel kunskapsutbyte, gemensamma diskussioner, samt gav emotionellt stöd. Relationer med underordnade var också betydelsefulla för lärandet och det kunde resultera i lösningar på komplexa frågor, vilket i sin tur hade en direkt inverkan på den dagliga verksamheten. På grund av den heterogena sammansättningen av yrkesgrupper, intressen och maktpositioner inom omsorgsarbetsgemenskapen krävdes det att cheferna ägnade mycket tid och kraft åt att upprätta samarbeten och en gemensam repertoar av praktiker. Av den anledningen kunde lärande ses som en stimulerande och njutbar upplevelse, men också utmattande och ibland tråkig.

Den tredje slutsatsen är att genus opererade på olika sätt inom två praktikgemenskaper i den kvinnodominerade äldreomsorgskontexten. Manliga privilegier var framträdande i omsorgsarbetsgemenskapen, då män uppfattades som självklara ledare och gavs legitimitet av underordnade. Kvinnliga chefer var tvungna att navigera mellan förväntningar förknippade med kvinnlighet och chefsrollen i denna gemenskap. Den kvinnodominerade äldreomsorgskontexten gav dock kvinnliga chefer större möjligheter att skapa nätverk och etablera inflytelserika positioner medan manliga chefer ställdes inför utmaningar när det kom till att etablera nära relationer till andra chefer och att få tillgång till lärande genom deltagande i chefsgemenskapen.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2024. p. 85
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 875Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 258
Keywords
First-line manager, Workplace learning, Managerial work, Community of practice, Gender, Elderly care, Första-linjechef, Arbetsplatslärande, Chefsarbete, Praktikgemenskap, Genus, Äldreomsorg
National Category
Learning
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-200627 (URN)10.3384/9789180755092 (DOI)9789180755085 (ISBN)9789180755092 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-03-15, I101, Building I, Campus, Linköping, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-02-02 Created: 2024-02-02 Last updated: 2024-02-02Bibliographically approved

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