Sub-theme 3.2. More competent but less warm? Perceptions about volunteers in the changing context of volunteer work and organizational consequences

Sub-theme 3.2. More competent but less warm? Perceptions about volunteers in the changing context of volunteer work and organizational consequences

This project focuses on intergroup relations between paid and volunteer employees in social enterprises, where a changing environment has an impact on social perceptions and attitudes between both groups. This has an impact on a number of personal outcome variables related to well-being and performance.

On the basis of research on intergroup relations, our overarching hypothesis is that when social enterprises professionalize, the climate becomes bad because of changing social perceptions and attitudes between volunteers and paid workers.

Applied to the volunteering issue, because volunteer work is assumed to be grounded on social usefulness needs, we may suppose that perceptions in a non-professionalized context will combine high warmth and low competence stereotypes. On the contrary, a more professionalized context will increase competence perceptions and by consequence, due to the compensation effect, will decrease warmth perceptions. Therefore, we may suppose that paternalistic attitudes of paid workers towards volunteers will turn into negative emotions and competitive—rather than cooperative—behaviour towards them, leading to lower global well-being and performance at work. The project aims to test this hypothesis as well as the mediating (the “why”) and moderating (the “when”) processes.

Our methodology will combine field and laboratory studies with quantitative devices (questionnaires). Studies will be carried out in social enterprises (a) where paid and volunteer workers are mixed and (b) which vary in the degree of volunteer work professionalization. The impact of professionalization will be analyzed on components of relationships between groups (paid workers vs. volunteer workers) as well as on volunteers’ reliability, well-being and willingness to continue to voluntarily work.