11 April 2023, 15 - 16.30
Relational projectivity in impossible mandates: the case of reentry counselors in the United States
Understanding how some, but not other, professionals come to view their work as sustainable despite an impossible mandate is a key condition for occupational stability. In my study of reentry counselors who help formerly incarcerated jobseekers with employment, I find that professionals’ understandings of their work shape their experiences of relationships with others and, in turn, their understanding of how labor should be divided for their mandate to be sustainable. All counselors experienced relational crackling, that is, a lack of well-structured relationships with clients and other professionals connected to their work. Two groups of counselors – Aides and Advisors – respectively overcame and accepted relational crackling by envisioning a clear division of labor around their work. A third group, Advocates, struggled with relational crackling and questioned the division of labor that would make their mandate sustainable. I call relational projectivity professionals’ ability to project future action in relation to others around them. Understanding how professionals develop relational projectivity helps explain occupational retention in unsettled ecologies and extends our understanding of how professionals handle impossible mandates.