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Journal Articles Human Relations Year : 2017

The sound of silence: Measuring suffering at work


What realities do questionnaires and surveys, designed to measure stress and suffering at work, bring to light? What realities do they conceal? In this research, we consider self-assessment scales and questionnaires as techniques of visibility that contribute to the construction of knowledge on the ‘suffering subject’ at work. We conducted a qualitative analysis of the questionnaire and survey report conducted by the consulting firm Technologia for France Telecom Orange, after a spate of suicides in 2008–2009. The results show that: (1) the questionnaire used to measure suffering at work views the subject as someone reflective yet rather passive, and their suffering as resulting from an unbalanced relationship with the work environment, (2) the report further restricts this understanding of suffering to the administrative position of the individual, (3) as a consequence, the political, strategic, ideological dimensions and the economic power struggles affecting work are silenced. Relying on Foucault’s approach to knowledge (savoir), we interpret this narrow concept of the subject and their surroundings as resulting from an assemblage between scientific discourses and visibility techniques; a compromise that conceals debates on the strategic orientation of the firm.
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hal-01534385 , version 1 (03-04-2022)



Florence Allard-Poesi, Sandrine Hollet-Haudebert. The sound of silence: Measuring suffering at work. Human Relations, 2017, 70 (12), pp.1442-1463. ⟨10.1177/0018726717703449⟩. ⟨hal-01534385⟩
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