Constructing a positive self-identity while working at the penitentiary; Coping strategies, challenging situations and the role of the organisation

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In this inductive, qualitative study, an analysis is made of how the occupational members with different occupational prestige levels are able to construct a positive self-identity while performing dirty work. The data was collected by conducting semi-structured interviews. The interviews were totally transcribed and analysed by using the Grounded Theory. The study identified four coping strategies that the occupational members apply to construct a positive self-identity. Besides known strategies such as identity construction, and reference, this study expands the current literature by proposing avoidance and relativism as supportive strategies to cope with identity work. Furthermore, it identified challenging situations where the coping strategies are threatened and might cause difficulty in holding on to the positive view. It refers to dealing with tough detainees, receiving judgements from surroundings, getting a reality check and experiencing less proud moments. No notable differences have been found between the occupational prestige levels. The study also identified two strategies that the organisation uses to positively influence the identity work of their occupational members. However, this aspect of the study has slightly fallen out of the scope of the study, because management is not involved.
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