The Dialectic of the Calling of the Zookeeper

Why, zookeeper? And or maybe: Why zookeeper? Both questions get some wrestling with in this study:

Call of the Wild: Zookeepers, Callings, and the Dual Edges of Meaningful Work,” J. Stuart Bunderson [pictured here] and Jefferey A. Thompson, to be published in Administrative Science Quarterly. (Thanks to investigator Eden Hemming for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Washington University in St. Louis and Brigham Young University, explain:

bunderson“Our in-depth examination of work meaning within the zookeeping profession pointed to the centrality of the notion of work as a personal calling. The view of calling expressed by zookeepers, however, was closer in basic structure to the classical conceptualization of the Protestant reformers than it was to more recent formulations. We explore the implications of this neoclassical conceptualization of calling for the relationship between individuals and their work. We find that a neoclassical calling is both binding and ennobling, both a source of identification, meaning, and significance as well as a source of duty, sacrifice, and vigilance. Hypotheses suggested by this emergent theoretical model were supported in a sample of zookeepers from 157 different zoos.”

Here’s detail from the study:



The authors make a special effort to say: “The paper also benefited from developmental feedback provided by participants at seminars with several groups [, including] the May Meaning Meeting of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship“.

BONUS (possibly related): A (possibly) different dialectic: