This study explores how the ‘care’ of able-bodied employees and managers (observers) affects their relationships with colleagues with cerebral palsy. Disability researchers have established that ‘help’ and ‘care’ may cause feelings of dependency with the recipient. However, few workplace studies have investigated the potential negative consequences of ‘caring for’ colleagues with disabilities.
Through open-ended interviews conducted in 2013 in 13 Danish work organizations with 13 employees with cerebral palsy and 62 observers, the study examines how the relational aspect of ‘care’ may result in relationships between colleagues of ‘parent–child’ or ‘helper–helpless’. The study thus clarifies the inherent contradictions embedded in the dynamics of organizational behaviour in relation to employees with disabilities, namely that workplaces may hire a person with physical limitations (perhaps to deflect accusations of social discrimination) and still end up stigmatizing these workers because of the stereotypical assumptions related to employees with disabilities.
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