Workplace Devaluation: Learning from Experience
Klunk, Clare Dvoranchik
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Many successful professionals, recognized for their experience, knowledge, competence and commitment to their field, experience a contradiction when they realize that their contributions are no longer valued by decision-makers in their organizations. Professionals, regardless of gender, position, education, race or profession, who experience workplace devaluation agree that this experience devalues their contributions and demeans their sense of self. This study illuminates the professionals' perspective of workplace devaluation through their experience. Within the framework of grounded theory methodology, this research examined three research questions: (a) What is the experience of professionals' workplace devaluation? (b) How did professionals learn from the experience? (c) What did professionals learn from the experience? The unit of analysis is the professional within an organization. Four participants were selected who (a) had several years experience with their organization; (b) were previously valued by the organization; (c) were current in their field; (d) had experienced workplace devaluation; and (e) were able to articulate insights, thoughts, and emotions on their experience. Multiple interviews with each participant provided the data. A comparative, iterative analysis of the data yielded: (a) a seven-phase process of the experience; (b) six constructs embedded in the process, and (c) four categories of learning. The dialogic interview method facilitated the participants' apperception, reflection, and progress through the process. Three emotions--fear, powerlessness, anger--and their interaction with the other constructs (autonomy, communication, personalization, authority, and recognition) influenced coping strategies and actions taken by each participant. The four narratives explicate the interrelationships of the findings. Three major conclusions are: (a) A rich description of the workplace devaluation experience offers a glimpse into the complexity of this topic and into the professionals' "lived world." (b) The learning process, grounded in the data, depicts how these four professionals used the power of their emotions to create balance within themselves as they attempted to explicate their situation of workplace devaluation. (c) The results indicate that greater learning occurred in organizational knowledge and intrapersonal knowledge for these professionals. Questions for further research are noted along with practical suggestions and recommendations for the praxis of adult educators, decision-makers, and professionals.
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