Role conflict, facework and vulnerable identity: Exploring the social complexities of becoming an exerciser in a workplace exercise group – A longitudinal ethnographic field study
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The focus of this study is on workplace exercise groups and, in particular, the experiences of those labelled 'unaccustomed to exercise': that is, those who struggle to participate, and their journey to become exercisers. To better engage with this issue, this thesis takes a Symbolic Interactionist (SI) perspective in exploring the social complexities affecting exercise participation in a Norwegian public company. I argue for the need to recognise exercise adherence as an intertwined relationship between social identity and social interaction, manifest through the lived experience of social actors. This discussion is based on ethnographic fieldwork. Four groups (72 employees) participating in an exercising program at the workplace were observed for 12 month: a total of 300 hours of observations, which included around 200 informal field conversations. Repeated interviews of five women and one man, about their developing exercise involvement over the year, gave a total of 11 interviews and 18 participants wrote weekly logbooks. Theoretically, the findings show how employees might find it embarrassing and stigmatizing exercising in front of more competent colleagues. Goffman’s dramaturgical theory offers an insight into how employees might tackle the resulting challenges of impression management: by acting as ‘familiar strangers’ and using facework strategies. The findings, also, question the stability of an exercise identity, suggesting instead a vulnerable identity, whereby employees need to actively work on, navigate and continuously reconstruct their self-perception as exercisers. Methodologically, this thesis is a longitudinal qualitative contribution to counterbalance the quantitative driven workplace participation and adherence literature. Additionally, it engages with debates about insider research and ‘going native’. Finally, the thesis offers several practical implications for how employers, health professionals and employees can work together to address the social, relational and contextual challenges facing less active employees in ‘becoming an exerciser’.Paper I: Rossing, H. & Jones, R. L. (2015). 'Stepping away from the computer and into the sweats': the construction and negotiation of exercise identities in a Norwegian public company. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and health, 7(1), 1-16.Paper II: Rossing, H. & Scott, S. (2014). Familiar Strangers: Facework Strategies in Pursuit of nonbinding relationships in a workplace exercise group. Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 42) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 42, 161-183. Tatt ut av filen i Brage p.g.a. copyright-restriksjoner. / Not in the file in Brage because of copyright issues.Paper III: Rossing, H., Ronglan, L.T. & Scott, S. (2016). I just want to be me when I am exercising: Adrianna's construction of a vulnerable exercise identity. Sport, Education and Society, 21(3). 339-355.Paper IV: Rossing, H. & Scott, S. (2016) Taking the fun out of it: the spoiling effects of researching something you love. Qualitative Research, 1468794115622561.
Avhandling (doktorgrad) - Norges idrettshøgskole, 2017