'White knuckle care work': violence, gender and new public management in the voluntary sector

Donna Baines, I.R. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


Drawing on comparative data from Canada and Scotland, this article explores reasons why violence is tolerated in non-profit care settings. This article will provide insights into how workers' orientations to work, the desire to care and the intrinsic rewards from working in a non-profit context interact with the organization of work and managerially constructed workplace norms and cultures (Burawoy, 1979) to offset the tensions in an environment characterized by scarce resources and poor working conditions. This article will also outline how the same environment of scarce resources causes strains in management's efforts to establish such cultures. Working with highly excluded service users with problems that do not respond to easy interventions, workers find themselves working at the edge of their endurance, hanging on by their fingernails, and beginning to participate in various forms of resistance; suggesting that even among the most highly committed, 'white knuckle care' may be unsustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-776
Number of pages17
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • care
  • gender
  • new public management
  • violence
  • voluntary sector
  • non-profit sector


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