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The theme of suffering in the workplace is still relevant given the socio-economic implications of increasing costs to society (care costs, premature death costs), but also from the company point of view (cost of absenteeism and cost of premature death relative to retirement age). There is also an inherent moral stake in this matter through the intimate link between moral action and suffering, in the sense that, as Pharo (1989) argues, we do not only suffer injustice as victims, but also when we become actors, or witnesses, of the latter. Suffering at work is that of society as a whole and the issue of decent work remains crucial.
However, the majority of political, economic and trade union leaders have often relegated the issue of work to the background compared to that of employment (De Gaulejac, 2011). This contemporary semantic hegemony of the notion of “quality of employment” to the detriment of that of “decent work”, marks the transition from considering the issue of labor to that of employment and that of justice to efficiency (Prieto Rodriguez & Serrano, 2014).
This general observation remains valid in the Tunisian context, where after the revolution of January 14, 2011, the country went through a phase of reconfiguration of powers and socio-economic issues (Hibou et al., 2011). This so-called “revolution of dignity” was intended to dissolve social antagonisms in a rediscovered national community. Ultimately, this dissolution was made possible by the multiple resonance of the term dignity…


This article aims to understand, from a sensemaking perspective (loss / quest / construction), how actors react to the paradoxical management system that leads to suffering at work. The study took place in the Tunisian post-revolution context with two professional activities: university teacher-researchers and hospital caregivers in public organizations managed according to New Public Management principles. The objective is to generate a model highlighting, from a sensemaking perspective, the interactions of this paradoxical management with the dimensions of work (being, having and know-how) and the mechanisms mobilized by the actors in reaction to this suffering. The aim is to identify both the peculiarities of individuals’ experiences and the cross-cutting constants of these activities. The research is qualitative, exploratory and is located in the interpretive paradigm. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted and the results of the content analysis show an almost similar evolution of suffering for both activities characterized by acquired, active, even preventive, resilience. Resilience, a concept that has abductively emerged in this research, refers in particular to the notions of dynamic capacity and the preservation of resources through a salutogenic approach.

  • work
  • suffering
  • sense
  • resilience
  • resources
Amel Bouderbala
Université de la Manouba, Tunisie
Sinda Ben Sedrine Doghri
Université de Tunis, Tunisie
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Uploaded on on 21/10/2021
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