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The Call of the Wild: Work as a Calling and the Captivity of Zookeepers. J. Stuart Bunderson Washington University in St. Louis Jeffrey R. Thompson Brigham Young University. A Little Background: Ideology in the Employment Contract.

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The call of the wild work as a calling and the captivity of zookeepers l.jpg

The Call of the Wild:Work as a Calling and the Captivity of Zookeepers

J. Stuart Bunderson

Washington University in St. Louis

Jeffrey R. Thompson

Brigham Young University


A little background ideology in the employment contract l.jpg

A Little Background: Ideology in the Employment Contract

“[People] will work hard for money; they will work harder for other [people]. But [people] will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause.”

- Harry Emerson Fosdick

(author, teacher, religious leader)


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A Little Background: Ideology in the Employment Contract

Economic

Incentives

(pay, benefits)

“[People] will work hard for money; they will work harder for other [people]. But [people] will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause.”

- Harry Emerson Fosdick

(author, teacher, religious leader)


A little background ideology in the employment contract4 l.jpg

A Little Background: Ideology in the Employment Contract

Economic

Incentives

(pay, benefits)

“[People] will work hard for money; they will work harder for other [people]. But [people] will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause.”

- Harry Emerson Fosdick

(author, teacher, religious leader)

Socio-Emotional

Incentives

(esteem, recognition,

status, friendship)


A little background ideology in the employment contract5 l.jpg

A Little Background: Ideology in the Employment Contract

Economic

Incentives

(pay, benefits)

“[People] will work hard for money; they will work harder for other [people]. But [people] will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause.”

- Harry Emerson Fosdick

(author, teacher, religious leader)

Socio-Emotional

Incentives

(esteem, recognition,

status, friendship)

Ideological

Incentives

(conviction, purpose,

mission, values)


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Developing this Basic Premise

  • Thompson & Bunderson (2003, AMR)

    • Explores ideology as a “third currency” in the psychological contract

    • Considers the implications of ideological currency for the experience of breach/violation.

  • We then set out to find a sample where we could test these hunches, where ideological incentives (and not others) were paramount …


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So We Went to the Zoo

  • Zookeeping lacks strong economic incentives:

    • Average income is under $25,000 per year

    • About 63% rely on another source of income (e.g., second job, family)


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So We Went to the Zoo

  • Zookeeping lacks key socio-emotional incentives (e.g., status, opportunities for advancement, etc.):

    • You don’t really “move up” as a zookeeper

    • Kookeeping is “dirty work” (Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999)

      • “[A] nun came by with a school group and the nun said, ‘See the kind of job that you get when you don't finish your education!’ This was within ear shot …”

    • Note: About 73% of

      zookeepers have a

      BS or higher!


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And Yet, Zookeepers AreHighly Committed

  • Most zoos have more keeper applicants than they can hire & turnover is low

  • Many keepers volunteer for months or years before getting hired.

  • “There's not much that they could do to get me to quit.”

  • “I can't think what would cause me to leave.”

  • “I don't think there's anything that they could do to me that would make me leave.”


Slide10 l.jpg

“You know, Ned, you’re my best friend, and I just gotta tell someone. It’s time I come out of this closet and stop living this lie…

I hate animals.”


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Interviews

  • We started by conducting in-depth interviews with 23 keepers at a leading public zoo in the Midwest.

  • Questions focused on:

    • Why zookeeping and how they got there

    • Thoughts and feelings about their work & the zoo

    • Interactions with others at the zoo

  • Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded using an emergent coding scheme.


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Work as Calling Emerged as Key

  • Comments suggesting a view of work as a calling emerged as the most frequent theme (21 of 23 interviews).

    • “I knew this is what I was meant to do”

    • “It's kind of like my calling I think”

    • “It's a calling for me”

    • “I've found my little niche”

  • It became clear that we needed to understand the concept of calling and how it was informing the way these keepers thought about their work.


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Classical Conceptions ofWork as a Calling

  • In Greek and Medieval thinking, work was a necessary evil which kept humankind from the more noble pursuits of the mind (philosophy) or spirit (religion).

  • Protestant Reformation (Luther & Calvin)

    • Work is a vocation, a station in life through which one serves God and humankind

    • One is obligated to faithfully execute duties within that vocation (cobbler & monk are both called)

  • “As there is a distinction of several creatures, so among men there are several inclinations and several abilities, as donations from God, for the common advantage of human society” (Puritan Theologian Stephan Charnock, 1680).


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Contemporary Conceptions ofWork as a Calling

  • Weber argued that a secular version of the calling notion became “bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production” and “provided an ethical justification of the modern specialized division of labour” (Weber, 1930).

  • Modern view of calling: work is an application of one’s particular talents for the greater good

    • Bellah, et al. (1985: 66): “A calling links a person to the larger community, a whole in which the calling of each is a contribution to the good of all”


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Contemporary Conceptions ofWork as a Calling

  • Weber argued that a secular version of the calling notion became “bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production” and “provided an ethical justification of the modern specialized division of labour” (Weber, 1930).

  • Modern view of calling: work is an application of one’s particular talents for the greater good

    • Bellah, et al. (1985: 66): “A calling links a person to the larger community, a whole in which the calling of each is a contribution to the good of all”

How were

callings experienced by

these keepers and how

did callings matter?


The experience of calling at the zoo some people are just wired this way l.jpg

The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:“Some People Are Just Wired this Way”

  • “It's a part of who I am and I don't know if I can explain that. When you use that expression ‘it's in your blood’, like football coaches and players can never retire because it's in their blood. Whatever my genetic makeup is I'm geared towards animals.”

  • “[Zookeepers] relate better to animals than they do to people. But then sometimes I think you're just born an animal person.”

  • “It's funny … some people you can tell they could care less. They just aren't animal people.”


The experience of calling at the zoo i ve always been wired this way l.jpg

The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:“I’ve Always Been Wired This Way”

  • “It's a calling for me just because my whole life I've just been interested in animals. So looking back I should have known at some time I would be working with animals …”

  • “I was always interested in animals ever since I was a kid. I drove my mom nuts catching bugs, and worms, and frogs, and salamanders, bringing home anything I could find … butterflies, stuff like that.”

  • “I always did like animals and was known in the neighborhood as the guy who always had animals.”

  • “I’ve always loved animals” (7 interviews), “I’ve always wanted to work with animals” (7 interviews)


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The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:“This is How I Make the World Better”

  • “My little way of preserving what we have left is taking care of these animals. I'm not one of those people to go out in the jungle and tell people don't do this, this is bad, that's not me. … This is my life.”

  • “Most people think, ‘oh you should just turn these animals loose in the wild’...Well, hey, there is no wild for a lot of these animals – none whatsoever. The habitat is gone. … [We’ve] got to do something and if captive breeding is the one thing I can do to stop extinction then I'm fine with that.”


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The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:Underlying Assumptions

“I am hard-wired in a particular way (e.g., passions, endowments) which predisposes me for a particular occupational niche”


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The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:Underlying Assumptions

“I am hard-wired in a particular way (e.g., passions, endowments) which predisposes me for a particular occupational niche”

  • Implication #1: A calling is enacted against the backdrop of the societal division of labor – it locates the individual within society and links the person to some societal purpose.


The experience of calling at the zoo underlying assumptions21 l.jpg

The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:Underlying Assumptions

“I am hard-wired in a particular way (e.g., passions, endowments) which predisposes me for a particular occupational niche”

  • Implication #2: Individuals have a duty to find that place and to serve the greater good within that place.

    • “[A]mong the most incontestable of moral rules is that which … orders us to specialize” since specialization “is essential to social cohesion” (Jones, 1986; interpreting Durkheim, 1893).

    • Calvin (1574): “For as God bestows any ability or gift upon any of us, he binds us to such as have need of us and as we are able to help”.


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The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:“This Was Meant to Be”

  • “I was here two days and I knew this is what I was meant to do. There's people that have volunteered here for years and they don't get a job and I worked here a month and a half. So it's kind of like my calling I think.”

  • “I’ve always read a lot about all different kinds of things and it kind of led me here. It was magical in a way …”

  • “So things kind of worked out the way they should. … I kind of fell into this. Things just worked out real well.”

  • “I just fell into the right places. … I mean that part time job I got when I first came here I had nothing to do with it.”

  • “Three months before I graduated I was offered a full time job in [my] department. I understand that's the only time that department has ever been offered in that way.”


The experience of calling at the zoo underlying assumptions23 l.jpg

The Experience of Calling at the Zoo:Underlying Assumptions

  • Implication #1: Callings are largely outside the realm of individual agency (given personal wiring, winds of fate).

  • Implication #2: To do anything but faithfully embrace one’s calling is to be untrue to both yourself and society.

    • If my personal wiring, the winds of fate, and the requirements of society have led me here, who am I to oppose it?!

“The winds of fate (destiny, divine intervention) conspired to lead me to this particular occupation”


The experience of work as a calling l.jpg

The Experience of Work as a Calling

  • To feel called is to feel that one is “meant” to work in a particular occupational niche because of passions, endowments, and/or life history

    • Involves a sense of personal and moral imperative

  • This is different from related concepts like occupational identification.

    • Duty (push) vs. affinity (pull)

    • Need for personal meaning vs. need for esteem/belonging

    • Moral beings vs. social beings

  • What consequences does this have for work-related attitudes and behaviors?


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A Calling & Work Outcomes: Toward a Research Model

Work as a

Moral Duty

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

Work

Rigidity

Job

Satisfaction


A calling and work as a moral duty l.jpg

A Calling andWork as a Moral Duty

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

“These animals have basically given up their freedom [in order] to educate people… So we have the responsibility to provide the best care for them. So that kind of is my motivation.”

Work as

Calling

“I know when I'm there I do the best job I can to take care of [my animals] and I can't necessarily say the same for somebody else.”


A calling and work sacrifices l.jpg

A Calling andWork Sacrifices

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

“I also owe something more for the animal's sake: To be willing to come in here in the middle of the night if something is going on and be willing to skip a break or two and be willing to not call in sick as much as somebody might at some other job.”

“We don't get paid very well here… But I guess that's the pay off for doing what you love.”


A calling and work flexibility l.jpg

A Calling andWork Flexibility

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

“One of the most rewarding things for me [is] the fact that I can touch the animals and interact with them on a daily basis and I can see what I'm doing is how it makes a difference to them in their lives… It's the most important thing. I don't think I could be happy pushing papers in an administrative position.”

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity


A calling and meaningful satisfying work l.jpg

A Calling andMeaningful, Satisfying Work

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


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Testing these Hypotheses

  • Joined forces with the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK)

  • Conducted a pilot study with 200 AAZK members to validate our survey (105 responded, 52.5%)

  • Sampled all remaining AAZK members and solicited participation from directors of American Zoological Association (AZA)-accredited zoos.

    • Overall director response = 70 zoos (45.2% participation)

    • Overall keeper response = 1201 keepers (41.6%)


Testing these hypotheses31 l.jpg

Testing these Hypotheses

  • Sample characteristics (n = 1201)

    • 72% female

    • 92% caucasian

    • 10.8 yrs. in the profession, 7.4 yrs. at current zoo

    • 72.1% had bachelor’s degree or higher

    • 33.1% union members

    • Represent 230 different zoos


Some measures l.jpg

Some Measures

Work as a Calling (6 items):

“I was meant to work with animals”

“Working with animals feels like my calling in life”

“It sometimes feels like I was destined to work with animals”

“I am definitely an animal person”

“My passion for animals goes back to my childhood”

“Working with animals feels like my niche in life”

* Cronbach’s Alpha = .92

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Some measures33 l.jpg

Some Measures

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

Moral Obligation (4 items):

“I have a moral obligation to give my animals the best possible care”

“I consider it my sacred duty to do all I can for my animals”

* Cronbach’s alpha = .88 (ind), .88 (org.)

Note: This was adapted for the organization as the target.

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

Moral Superiority (4 items):

“I get frustrated sometimes because some keepers act like this is just a job”

“Some other keepers here aren’t as committed to their animals as they should be”

* Cronbach’s alpha = .80

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Some measures34 l.jpg

Some Measures

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

Non-Work Time: self-ratings

Effort: Director ratings

Money:

1. How much of your prize (if you win)

will you donate to an animal cause?

2. Self-reported income

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Some measures35 l.jpg

Some Measures

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

Occupational: Thoughts of quitting occupation

Job: Willingness to switch to non-keeper job

Work Compromises (3 items):

- “Species preservation goals justify moving

animals between facilities even if they suffer

hardship”

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Control variables l.jpg

Control Variables

  • My duty (H1)

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromises (H9)

Work

Rigidity

Age

Gender

Yrs. experience

Education

Union member

Association member

Supervisor

Job orientation

Career orientation

Occupational identification

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Results l.jpg

Results

  • My duty (H1)*

  • Moral superiority (H2)*

  • Org’s duty (H3)*

Work as a

Moral Duty

  • Non-work time (H4)*

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)*

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)*

  • Job (H8)*

  • Work compromise(H9)*

Work

Rigidity

Age

Gender

Yrs. experience

Education

Union member

Association member

Supervisor

Job orientation

Career orientation

Occupational identification

H11*

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Results38 l.jpg

Results

  • My duty (H1)*

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)*

Work as a

Moral Duty

Occupational

Identification

  • Non-work time (H4)*

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)*

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromise(H9)

Work

Rigidity

Age

Gender

Yrs. experience

Education

Union member

Association member

Supervisor

Job orientation

Career orientation

Occupational identification

H11

Meaningful

Work

Job

Satisfaction


Results39 l.jpg

Results

  • My duty (H1)*

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)*

Work as a

Moral Duty

Occupational

Identification

  • Non-work time (H4)*

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)*

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromise(H9)

Work

Rigidity

Age

Gender

Yrs. experience

Education

Union member

Association member

Supervisor

Job orientation

Career orientation

Occupational identification

Affective

Commitment

Job

Satisfaction


Results40 l.jpg

Results

  • My duty (H1)*

  • Moral superiority (H2)

  • Org’s duty (H3)*

Work as a

Moral Duty

Occupational

Identification

  • Non-work time (H4)*

  • Effort (H5)

  • Money (H6)

Work

Sacrifices

Work as

Calling

  • Occupational (H7)*

  • Job (H8)

  • Work compromise(H9)

Work

Rigidity

Age

Gender

Yrs. experience

Education

Union member

Association member

Supervisor

Job orientation

Career orientation

Occupational identification

Affective

Commitment

Job

Satisfaction


Some conclusions l.jpg

Some Conclusions

  • A calling links the individual to society in a profoundly meaningful way.

    • Passions & endowments  Occupational niche

    • I was “meant” to do this sort of work

  • A calling is binding as well as ennobling

    • This is my duty (to self and society)


The costs of calling for the individual l.jpg

The Costs of Calling for the Individual

  • Work-life balance

    • “Working here at the zoo has cost me a marriage.”

    • “Most of the zoo's employees are very dedicated. Most of them put their charges or animals or plants right up there with their family.”

    • “I have back problems, arthritis, knee problems. So I give up a lot to work here.”


The costs of calling for the individual43 l.jpg

The Costs of Calling for the Individual

  • Exploitation

    • Those with a calling earned less

      • “I love the zoo. I would not tell [management] that because they can get a strong hold on you that way. If management knows you love your job, they'll try to do things to undercut your pay and stuff like that.”

      • “Even if I wasn't getting paid I would still be here.”

    • “How many people in the world get to work with gorillas?… There are other people that would give their eye teeth to be headkeeper of the primate center at the ____ Zoo.”


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The Costs of Callings for the Employing Organization

  • Heightened vigilance

    • A calling puts the employee-organization relationship on moral grounds (we share a moral duty) and therefore opens the door for feelings of moral violation (Thompson & Bunderson, 2003).

    • Callings promote a “stewardship orientation” (Davis, Schoorman, & Donaldson, 1997).


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The Power of Knowing“Why You’re Here”

“I understand why I'm here and, quite frankly, you give up a lot to be in the animal field. I'm not going to be rich. I'm not going to get a major award and I'm not going to be on parade someplace. So I know why I'm here.”


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