Open Access Repository

Organizational variation and the role of professional participants : a study of social welfare workers in three settings


Downloads per month over past year

Roach, Sharyn Leanne 1982 , 'Organizational variation and the role of professional participants : a study of social welfare workers in three settings', Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

[img] PDF (Whole thesis)
whole_RoachShar...pdf | Request a copy
Full text restricted
Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.


The theoretical problem under investigation is the location of
professionals in complex organizations and the apparent incompat-
ibility of professional and bureaucratic norms. A central problem
within much of the discussion of professional employees is the
emphasis upon ideal typical descriptions of professional and bureau-
cratic organizations. This study develops out of a concern that
although ideal types are extremely valuable in directing attention
to central issues for research, their highly abstract character
inevitably results in the blurring of organizational variability.
In an analysis of professional-organizational relations exclusive
focus upon ideal types therefore tends to obscure some of the imply-
cations of different organizational settings for professional active-
ities and for possible interdependence and integration. In addition,
other significant sources of tension and conflict which affect pro-
fessional tasks and professional authority are frequently ignored.

In order to pursue this problem the approach adopted is both
empirical and comparative. It focuses upon a single group of
professional employees, but treats the type of organization in
which they work as variable. The case of social welfare workers
employed in three different organizational contexts was selected.
The first type of organization examined is a hospital, the second,
a government welfare agency~ and the third, a state probation service.
Within the different types of organization, power and authority
distribution, formal goals, and inter-occupational relations vary.
The discussion indicates the unintended consequences which various
organizational contexts have for professional employees 1 actual tasks
and concerns. It also investigates and explains the conditions under
which professional-organizational conflict and tension, or alter-
natively, integration and harmony occur.

Within each organization the position of social welfare
employees in the division of labour, their location within the pre-
vailinq authority structure, and their relationship with clients
are investigated. The impact of these factors and the unintended
implications of organizational employment for social welfare workers'
activities, responsibilities and professional role expectations are
described and analyzed. Within this framework the importance and
role of education and credentials for social welfare personnel are

The major findings confirm that the type of complex organiza-
tion does affect professional autonomy. The study shows that the
potential for professional-organizational conflict and tension differs
between various organizational settings. It also indicates that
hierarchical authority relations and specific organizational rules
and procedures are neither the only, nor the most important source of
tension for professional employees.

Hospital welfare workers tend to lack authority and prestige
and therefore relations with members of the dominant profession, i.e.
medical doctors, is the major source of conflict and tension. However,
in the government welfare agency, potential tension and disharmony
do indeed stem from hierarchical authority relations and specific
organizational requirements. By contrast, the analysis of the situ-
ation of probation officers indicates that employment in a bureau-
cratic context does not necessarily result in reduced control either
in the professional-client relationship, or in other occupational
activities. This situation is suggestive of professional-organizational

The findings support the central proposition that ideal type
descriptions are not sufficiently sensitive to organizational
variability and therefore cannot cope adequately with the complex-
ities that affect professional employees' actual activities and
authority relations. Informed by these observations a re-formu-
lation of those existing theories of professional-organizational
relations which emphasize the inevitability of disharmony and
conflict wherever professionals work in complex, bureaucratic
organizations is proposed. This re-formulation involves a compre-
hensive analysis of the situation of professionals in organizations
which requires consideration of the unforeseen implications of
organizational variation, differential authority distribution and
relative prestige for professional authority, responsibility and
ideology, and for control of the professional-client relationship.

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Roach, Sharyn Leanne
Keywords: Social workers, Social service, Organization, Professional employees
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1982 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1983. Bibliography: l. 131-137

Item Statistics: View statistics for this item

Actions (login required)

Item Control Page Item Control Page