Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2008, page 56-71.
Between empathy and depersonalization
An emotional sociological analysis of the consequences of taylorization for home care workers
Lasse Suenperä Liebst og Merete Monrad
This article approaches the Danish home care from an emotional sociological perspective. The scope of the article is to discuss the consequences of the taylorization of the Danish home care for the home care workers’ feelings for the elderly citizens. The discussion is empirically grounded on eight interviews with home care workers from two homecare divisions in Denmark. Being unable to care for the elderly citizens in a way that lives up to the home care workers’ empathy for the elderly citizens, is emotionally burdening for the home care workers. Based on this empirical study, Christina Maslachs understanding of depersonalization is criticized for lacking a proper comprehension of the way emotional burdening, rather than reflecting a weakened empathy, is the outcome of an ideal of empathic caring which the home care workers are unable to accomplish. Instead of emotional burdening, a new term is suggested: existential frustration. The term existential frustration turns the focus of the analysis to the home care workers’ meaningful actions, highlighting the existential significance of making a difference for the elderly. Existential frustrations stem from the home care workers’ inability, during the current taylorization, to carry out a care for the elderly citizens, that is consistent with their empathy. Instead of causing an apathic abandonment of the empathy for the elderly citizens, the frustration leads to a highly developed coping. The home care workers are fighting for and – due to the coping – succeeding in carrying out an empathic meaningful care, in spite of the taylorization.