Navigating Creative Work
: Work, self, and emotions in the creative organisation

  • Iva Josefsson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis examines the experiences of creative workers working in a creative organisation. It considers how workers understand themselves, their work, the challenges they face, and their attempts to navigate these. This is achieved through an organisational ethnography at a single organisation, Alpha Games.By examining worker narratives and organisational texts at Alpha I observe how discourses are constructed that regulate who and what is the ideal Alpha worker, but also worker selves and emotions. At Alpha, such discourses were linked to wider social ideologies of creativity and autonomy to generate fantasies of the prized artist. While workers engaged with these fantasies in their talk – they often failed to realise these in their everyday experiences of work. Despite this contradiction, workers continued to express a love for their work and construct themselves as a part of it. I argue that this complication of self and emotions in work is due to structural configurations that organise creative work as a game with the self. The way in which work is structurally connected to the self encourages workers to engage in this Game with the hopes of affirming identities and reaching desired loving states.Despite the aspirations and desires it triggers, this Game more often results in painful experiences and insecurity that heighten the sense of self. In hoping to cope with these challenges workers develop an alternative discourse and identity of the craftsman. Through the craftsman they work to navigate these challenges and avoid difficult emotion work without, however, challenging systemic issues of long working hours, low pay, and the blurring of life and work. This thesis concludes by considering the implication of these issues more broadly in order to raise questions about the ways in which creative work is organised.
Date of Award30 May 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrew Brown (Supervisor) & Yiannis Gabriel (Supervisor)

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