“It Was Not Me That Was Sick, It Was the Building”: Rhetorical Identity Management Strategies in the Context of Observed or Suspected Indoor Air Problems in Workplaces

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Suffering from a contested illness poses a serious threat to one’s identity. We analyzed the rhetorical identity management strategies respondents used when depicting their health problems and lives in the context of observed or suspected indoor air (IA) problems in the workplace. The data consisted of essays collected by the Finnish Literature Society. We used discourse-oriented methods to interpret a variety of language uses in the construction of identity strategies. Six strategies were identified: respondents described themselves as normal and good citizens with strong characters, and as IA sufferers who received acknowledge from others, offered positive meanings to their in-group, and demanded recognition. These identity strategies located on two continua: (a) individual- and collective-level strategies and (b) dissolved and emphasized (sub)category boundaries. The practical conclusion is that professionals should be aware of these complex coping strategies when aiming to interact effectively with people suffering from contested illnesses.

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