“Half the Job is Pleasing Her”: An Ethnographic Account of Manager-Induced Stress, Care Worker Responses, and Care Recipient Outcomes at a Rehabilitation and Adoption Center for Farmed Animals
Barna, Elizabeth Kathryn
Since the mid-twentieth century, the proportion of interactive service jobs has risen dramatically in the United States, quickly outpacing industrial occupations and giving rise to what Bell (1973) calls a “post-industrial society.” In this study, I examine interactive service work that breaches the human-animal divide, reflecting the contemporary “animal turn” of social scientific research. Based on three months of intensive participant-observation as an animal care intern at a rehabilitation and adoption center for farmed animals, supplemented with semi-structured interviews with my fellow caregivers, I argue that harsh managerial engagement with staff and a heavily regimented work environment can have adverse effects on care workers—and ultimately, on the care recipients themselves. In order to maintain their employment—and therefore, their relationship with their animal clients—the caregivers I observed employed three primary strategies that helped them cope in an environment in which “half the job” is pleasing an unforgiving manager: 1) strict adherence to protocol, 2) “taking a gamble” in an effort to satisfy management, and 3) deception and willful negligence of care recipients. Although the first strategy occasionally benefited the animal care recipients, these three strategies are ultimately problematic, as they are characterized by an intense focus on avoiding managerial scrutiny that all too often compromises the quality of care provided. In this manner, I extend Folbre’s (2001) prisoner of love concept by arguing that care workers remain silent not only on issues of pay as Folbre suggests, but on issues of harsh managerial treatment, in order to maintain their relationships with their care recipients. I also introduce the concept of secondary prisoners of love, as care recipients are adversely impacted by caregivers’ efforts to maintain their employment through subversive means.