Neoliberal managed care and the changing nature of social work practice
Exploring the relationship between authoritarianism and burnout among US social workers
Social workers are currently caught in a “structural bind” in which the field’s original normative mission, rooted in social justice and social change, is increasingly at odds with the reality of working in a hierarchical neoliberal managed care setting. While most practitioners are at risk of burnout under these strained conditions, not all will respond in the same way. This article considers the possibility that some practitioners will exhibit authoritarian character traits (e.g., submission to and unquestioned compliance with institutional rules) in conformity with the institutional setting of neoliberal managed care. Using the Maslach Burnout Inventory for Health Services Occupations (MBI-HSS) and Dunwoody and Funke’s Aggression-Submission-Conventionalism (ASC) authoritarianism scale, the authors explore the previously unexamined relationship between authoritarianism and burnout among a sample of 532 social workers in the US. As hypothesized, correlations between each of the MBI-HSS subscales and ASC subscales yielded an inverse relationship between authoritarianism and burnout.