Dimensions and dignity at work: a new model for Europe?

Bolton, Sharon C. (2008) Dimensions and dignity at work: a new model for Europe? In: International Conference on Sociology, Athens Institute of Education and Research, 2008-05-01. (Unpublished)

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Many people have talked about dignity at work; though there are very few contemporary studies that directly address the issue. When discussed in relation to 'Decent Work' at the policy level it is clearly expressed as a core objective, such as in the International Labour Organisation's quest for decent work and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. At the level of the firm, Best Practice People Management (BPPM) tends to disguise the topic of human dignity under headings such as organisational citizenship, job satisfaction, mutuality, management of diversity, pride in work, responsible autonomy and distributional justice. At the present time there are also some high profile campaigns which concentrate on workplace bullying and harassment as the central facilitator of indignity at work. However, though the topic of dignity at work is inextricably linked to many important work and employment issues at the level of both policy and practice it has an almost taken-for-granted quality when, if more clearly explicated, it could serve as a useful metric to assess the effectiveness of various policies and practices designed to support decent and productive work. To date there are only limited available insights into what dignity at work might mean to workers and managers in their day-to-day working lives, how this impacts upon their experiences of work, how it might impact upon the consumers of their goods and services and how it might enable (or prevent) businesses, countries and people carrying themselves with dignity in the local and global communities. The proposed research project suggests that associating quality of work with human flourishing and dignity offers a fruitful path for the development of a workable model that fits with the European vision of a fair, just and mutually constitutive society. The introduction of a Dimensions of Dignity Framework relies on the notion of dignity as a fundamental human right (United Nations, 1948) and the International Labour Organisation's carefully defined indicators for 'decent work' (ILO, 2005). It offers the potential for a nuanced analysis of dignity at work in that it recognises dignity in work linked with the notion of 'good work' and dignity at work linked with how we are perceived and valued as persons in the workplace. An exploration such as this is especially relevant in the context of various, sometimes confusing, often conflicting, European Policies aimed at improving living and working conditions throughout Europe. It is suggested that a multi-dimensional view of dignity presents the potential to go 'back to basics' and offer a broad lens and a new political sociology of work through which many vital issues involved in contemporary work might be examined. In turn, this offers a unique opportunity to develop a model of promising practice that will have the potential to form the foundation for a European wide model of good practice linking policy and practice through decent work, best practice management and performativity