Workshop Series: Liliana Bove
Service workers like child protective officers and mental health workers, are perceived overwhelmingly as valuable to society (LeCroy and Stinson 2004), even noble and heroic (Ashforth et. al. 2007). Yet, perversely, those who undertake these roles are also often socially stigmatized, seen as "dirty", by their communities because they deal with "tainted" people (Ashforth and Kreiner, 1999). This dark side of public perception is most evident during crisis events when the media blame workers for unfortunate occurrences, creating a frenzied environment in which individual accountability and punishment is often demanded. The public response of anger and desire to punish, destroy the stigmatized service worker's (SSW) sense of workplace self. Indeed, the negative portrayal of SSWs by the media has been linked to increased stress, burnout and turnover (see e.g., Gibelman 2004; Tower 2000; Zugazaga et al. 2006). For example, a 2008 submission by the Australian Association of Social Workers cites "bad press" as one of a number of key reasons for concern over adequate practitioner staffing in the near future. Further, in 2004 and 2005, after several high profile Child Protective Services (CPS) incidents in Texas triggered sustained negative media coverage, staff turnover climbed from 29 percent to 45 percent by 2007 (Center for Public Policy Priorities 2009).
Given the serious implications of negative media portrayal of SSWs, it is essential that we gain an understanding of factors that may influence community response to crisis events. The current research focuses on one such factor: The effectiveness of different forms of marketing communication in inducing empathic concern for SSWs. Empathy is an other-oriented emotional response congruent with the perceived welfare of another (Batson et al. 1995a). Although it has been established that generating empathic concern helps those in stigmatized groups such as AIDS sufferers or convicted criminals, particularly when their plight is seen as beyond their control (Batson et al. 1997), research has not extended to SSWs who are seen to have control over their situation, having chosen their occupations. Using the research of Betancourt 1990, Weiner et al. 1998 and Bateson, 1997, 2002, a conceptual model is presented which suggests that media attribution of blame during a crisis event, can be mitigated by inducing public empathic concern towards SSWs prior to the crisis because this will influence perceptions of controllability of the attribution. This study has potentially theoretical contributions to improving our understanding of the relationship between attribution of blame and empathy and has managerial implications for the professional bodies that represent SSWs.
Dr Liliana Bove is an Associate Professor in Marketing at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests are in the areas of service marketing, customer loyalty and citizenship behaviour. She has published in journals such as: International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Service Research, Journal of Business Research, Industrial Marketing Management, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Services Marketing, and Transfusion Medicine Reviews. Since her PhD submission in 2002, Liliana has received nine research related awards for her work including the Mollie Holman Medal for best doctoral dissertation in the Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University, and the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Emerging Researcher Award. She is an editorial advisory board member of four international journals and the leading regional Marketing journal, Australasian Marketing Journal. Prior to commencing her academic career, Liliana held various scientific, marketing and management roles over a ten year period in the chemical, airline and health industries. In 2009 she took leave and worked for a year at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service as a Major Program Leader for donor research.