Profession as an Instrument of Protection Against Psychosocial Risks: The Case of Proximity Managing Engineers

Empirical Studies
By Y. Miossec, Y. Clot


In this paper, we show how the Clinic of activity – a commonly used approach in occupational psychology – treats the question of psychosocial risks. This paper is based on our research on the team manager trade. The new category of psychosocial risks has appeared in the field of occupational health to describe the set of risks that work places on mental and somatic health. First, we show the way in which epidemiology approaches the question of psychosocial risks and will highlight some of the limits of its definition of the term psychosocial and in its action’s methods. We will then present our approach to tackling the question of psychosocial risks in the Clinic of activity.
Our approach consists of posing the problem of the trade. By trade, we mean the relationship between the psychological and social dimensions of work. We distinguish three social dimensions : the task, what we call the professional genre, and the activity with the peers. In the Clinic of activity, the research always begins with an intervention. The intervention consists of setting up the dialogical framework to analyse the individual and collective ways of working. Our goal in the action is that the workers use this time to develop new links between the psychological and social dimensions of their trade. We take audio recordings of the meetings. Then, we look for signs of development in order to provide an account for the way the workers realize or not the new links between the psychological and social dimensions. In research commissioned by the occupational health service of a large international industrial firm based in France, we analyzed the manner in which the workers use the intervention. Is the dialogical framework used to establish, via language, new connections between the four dimensions of the trade ? What are the effects of the movement of the trade between different contexts : the ordinary work context, the context of the intervention, and that of the steering committees ?
Analyses of the discussions during the intervention highlight two types of dialogues about and with the trade. We can distinguish two ways in which the trade functions. The first way in which it works that appears in the discussions is hardly conducive to good health. The manager tackles the task face to face. There is little collective work concerning the reconception of the task and the renewal of the professional genre. In this first way of working, the relationships between the psychological and social dimensions are rigid. In the second way of working, the managers transform the intervention into a means in which to develop new relationships between the different dimensions. The managers discover, by realizing them, possibilities for development that they never knew existed. This research tends to confirm the function of dialogue, in the Bakhtine sense, as a resource for developping the trade and at the same time protecting the employees from what are called psychosocial risks.


  • clinic of activity
  • occupational health
  • developpement of the trade
  • psychosocial risks
  • psychosocial resources
  • team managers
  • dialogical frame
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