Coping With Moral Stress in the Swedish Public Services

  • Elin Thunman Department of Sociology, Uppsala University


This paper examines how today?s public workers cope with moral stress in organizations where new public management reforms have been implemented. More specifically, the interest is focused on examining which practices are developed in order to fulfill professional standards within the limits of inadequate resources in order to manage moral stress. Case studies at Swedish public work places are analyzed with the help of Lipsky?s theory about street-level bureaucrats? coping behavior and theories about the elements of resistance in coping. The main result is the discernment of three dominant modificational strategies to manage stressful moral dilemmas in encounters with clients. The paper contributes to the understanding of coping with moral stress by highlighting that the detected coping forms among a varied group of public professionals imply an active adaption, reification, and opposition to the managerial reforms.

Author Biography

Elin Thunman, Department of Sociology, Uppsala University
Researcher in Sociology