[學術報告] 正念與道德疏離影響同情疲勞效果之研究:台灣動物保護行政人員為研究對象

作者:吳宗憲

  1. Introduction

        For a long time, public administration scholars have contended that civil servants with high levels of compassion are necessary for successful governance and boosted government department performance. However, they have overlooked the fact that these civil servants experience severe physical and psychological damage because of their excessive compassion in servicing people. The most severe instance occurred in May 2016, when Dr. Ya-Cheng Chian, who worked in an animal shelter in Taiwan, died from suicide using the drugs that served to euthanize animals because of the psychological stress induced by the job requirement (BBC, 2017).

        Studies on public administration have mostly focused on helping public servants complete their tasks efficiently and building anticorruption systems. They have neglected the helpless individuals experiencing compassion fatigue because of how dedicated they are to their jobs in massive organizations. This situation may be caused by a certain factor. As Waldo (1980) questioned, “Why would an instrument designed to be impersonal and calculating be expected to be effective in delivering sympathy or compassion?” Fortunately, studies on psychological counseling have focused on the psychological symptoms from overworking due to high levels of compassion. These symptoms include the feelings of helplessness, anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, numbness, and disengagement. Moreover, the professional term “compassion fatigue” was introduced (Figley and Roop, 2006). However, no studies have separately examined the effectiveness of mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2016) and emotional separation (Corcoran, 1983), two types of coping strategies in overcoming compassion fatigue. Particularly, emotional separation is similar to the strategy of moral disengagement, which was explored in previous studies on administration ethics. When civil servants have their administrative discretion restricted, their compassion fatigue is exacerbated by moral stress (Kahler, 2015). Although mindfulness and moral disengagement differ in their logics, no empirical studies have been conducted to compare these two strategies. Therefore, no relevant information is available regarding the different effects of these two strategies on civil servants’ compassion fatigue.

        The goal of this study was to analyze the levels of compassion fatigue in animal protection administrative units in Taiwan and clarify whether demographic information (e.g., seniority and sex) influences the levels of compassion fatigue. Additionally, the effect of severe compassion fatigue on these units’ psychological health and willingness to work was examined. Finally, the effects of mindfulness and moral disengagement on the negative outcomes from compassion fatigue in these units were clarified, and the strategies these units experiencing compassion fatigue tend to adopt were investigated.

  1. Literature Review

2.1 Flaws in the studies on compassion fatigue in public administration and supplements offered by psychological studies

Few studies on public administration have focused on the effect of compassion on civil servants’ organizational behaviors. With the prevalence of the New Right, most scholars have considered civil servants’ behaviors as motivated by rational self-interests. Currently, compassion is not considered the core of public services, and it has not yet been regarded as the cause of negative organizational behaviors. Therefore, the aforementioned case of Dr. Chian’s suicide was severely neglected. Psychological studies on compassion fatigue are mandatory to alleviate the compassion fatigue experienced by civil servants.

Joinson (1992) coined the term “compassion fatigue” to refer to the persistent negative emotions, such as anger and feeling of helplessness, experienced by nursing personnel caring for patients. This concept was subsequently expanded to other counseling professions (Harris, 2002), such as pastors, counselors, and social workers (Hooper et al., 2010).

Coetzee and Klopper (2010) argued that compassion fatigue is a unique type of fatigue caused by the stress accumulated by some service providers because of their strong psychological association with their patients. The term “fatigue” was replaced by “compassion fatigue” to better describe the negative emotions experienced by nursing personnel directly linked to their compassion (Neville and Cole, 2013).

Studies have alluded to the following individual factors of compassion fatigue:

2.1.1 Sex

As commonly acknowledged by most societies, female employees are willing to partake in jobs designed to help others because they are more compassionate towards disadvantaged people than male employees are. Consequently, female service providers experience higher levels of compassion fatigue than do male service providers (McArthur et al., 2017; Yeung et al., 2017).

2.1.2 Age

Studies have reported that young people tend to experience greater fatigue (Doolittle, 2010; Francis et al., 2009) and compassion fatigue (including job fatigue and secondary trauma) than older people do (Burtson and Stichler, 2010; Yeung et al., 2017).

2.1.3 Seniority

When examining data from veterinary students, McArthur et al. (2017) indicated that students with working experience in veterinary hospitals tend to experience lower compassion fatigue than other students. Accordingly, some scholars have contended that seniority predicts fatigue more satisfactorily than age (Randall, 2004). Indeed, young workers have not fully developed the necessary skills to mitigate stress (Doolittle, 2010).

2.2 Mindfulness

Workers adopt various external strategies to alleviate compassion fatigue, including religion, music, arts (Lally, 2005), group counseling, in-service courses and seminars (Berger and Gelkopf, 2011), seeking support from managers (Thoits, 1995), and distancing from the sources of stress (Yoder, 2010). However, because compassion fatigue is a psychological state, the effectiveness of said external strategies entirely depends on whether they successfully transform into internal coping strategies for the people adopting them. Psychological studies have reported that these coping strategies can be divided into active “mindfulness” and passive “emotional separation.”

2.2.1 Context of mindfulness

Kabat-Zinn (1994) developed a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique, which employs mindfulness as a special approach to observe. Attention is given in a particular manner—on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Accordingly, mindfulness involves truthfully observing one’s own physical and psychological phenomena (Josefsson et al., 2011), patiently observing the immediate physical and psychological states, and observing one’s own emotions, thoughts, and pain without judgment (Earley et al., 2014; Brotto et al., 2012).

Several methods to practice mindfulness have been developed, such as sitting and walking meditation, body scan, mindful yoga, and mindfulness in daily life (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).
2.2.2 Positive effect of mindfulness on psychological health and organizational behaviors

        Typically, organizations have attempted to solve problems by increasing the physical resources and providing employees with professional training, such as advanced medical technology and comprehensive policy analysis, to solve problems efficiently and practically. However, all governments and organizations face moments of helplessness, such as in times of war and natural disasters. Even when employees’ professional capabilities are comprehensively developed, situations in which patients have incurable diseases (e.g., those in hospice wards) or are in desperate conditions (e.g., veterinarians euthanizing sheltered animals because of shortage in resources) are bound to occur and impede the usefulness of their professional skills.

        Studies have reported numerous positive effects of mindfulness on employees’ psychological health. Bolduc et al. (2014) maintained that mindfulness training enables adults to alleviate traumatic experiences they have sustained from their childhood. In an organization, when employees are mindful of their own psychological symptoms, they can preemptively prevent the negative effects these symptoms bring about (Bride et al., 2007). Subsequently, they can face their own psychological trauma compassionately and nonjudgmentally (Neff, 2003a; Neff, 2003b).

2.3 Emotional separation in psychology and moral disengagement in public administrative ethics

        In addition to mindfulness, care providers faced with compassion fatigue may adopt strategies with which they distance themselves physically and psychologically from the sources of stress (e.g., care receivers and their difficulties), for example by taking vacations, reducing their amount of work, or temporarily leaving workplaces. This way, care providers regain the energy and space necessary to recover their physical and psychological health (Keidel, 2002; Yoder, 2010). However, this strategy can lead to moral disengagement when applied by civil servants, who possess administrative discretion. To distance themselves from moral stress, civil servants may morally justify their irresponsibility as being a coping strategy. Therefore, mindfulness is defined as an adaptive coping strategy, whereas moral disengagement is regarded as a maladaptive coping strategy (Zander et al., 2010).

2.3.1 Context of moral disengagement

        In moral disengagement, people morally justify the unethical behaviors they have adopted to reduce their sense of moral guilt (Fiske, 2004; Bandura, 1986; Bandura et al., 1977; Bandura, 1990). Bandura (1990) defined four types of moral disengagement mechanisms as follows: (1) moral justification, which involves justifying one’s own behaviors when detrimental consequences have not surfaced; for example, the euthanasia of stray dogs has been justified as a means to save a country’s finances; (2) minimization of consequences, which involves disregarding or distorting consequences when they surface; for example, care providers may anesthetize the moral guilt felt from causing the death of a puppy by failing to provide warmth-keeping measures by giving excuses such as they did not know low temperature would kill it; (3) nonresponsibility, which involves blaming negative results on other people’s mistakes to mask one’s own guilt; for example, stray dog problems may be presented as a responsibility shared by the negligence of the society, families that have abandoned the dogs, and pet shop owners.

2.3.2 Negative consequences of moral disengagement in organizational behaviors

        Moral disengagement exacerbates organization members’ psychological health and causes them to adopt negative organizational behaviors. Empirical studies have confirmed that organizational members experiencing negative emotions because of job stress adopt counterproductive work behaviors (Caprara et al., 2012), such as withholding efforts (Fida et al., 2015), anger, and hostility (Wang et al., 2017), all of which impede their psychological health.

 

  1. Research Design

3.1 Research hypotheses

        To clarify the overall level of compassion fatigue experienced by animal protection administration personnel and the effects of individual characteristics on their compassion fatigue, a statistical analysis of compassion fatigue was conducted, and the following hypotheses were formed according to a literature review:

        H1: Female employees experience higher levels of compassion fatigue than male employees.

        H2: People of a younger age experience higher levels of compassion fatigue.

        H3: Employees with less seniority experience higher levels of compassion fatigue.

        H4: Employees’ levels of compassion fatigue differ according to the administrative duties they are allocated in the animal protection system.

        Compassion fatigue has also been indicated to negatively affect people’s willingness to work and psychological health according to a literature review. Accordingly, Hypotheses 5 and 6 were formed as follows:

        H5: Compassion fatigue negatively affects the willingness of animal protection administrative personnel to work.

        H6: Compassion fatigue negatively affects the psychological health of animal protection administrative personnel.

        Studies have indicated that accumulated compassion fatigue negatively affects individuals and organizations in several aspects, prompting individuals to cope with it through various strategies. When compassion fatigue accumulates, individuals tend to opt for moral disengagement over mindfulness. Accordingly, Hypotheses 7 and 8 were formed as follows:

        H7: People’s level of moral disengagement differs according to their level of compassion fatigue. Moreover, people with higher levels of compassion fatigue are more likely to adopt the strategy of moral disengagement.

        H8: People’s level of mindfulness differs according to their level of compassion fatigue. Moreover, people with higher levels of compassion fatigue are less likely to adopt the strategy of mindfulness.

        Studies have contended that mindfulness strengthens people’s willingness to work as well as their psychological health. Accordingly, Hypotheses 9 and 10 were formed as follows:

        H9: Mindfulness positively affects people’s willingness to work.

        H10: Mindfulness positively affects people’s psychological health.

Studies have confirmed that moral disengagement weakens people’s willingness to work as well as their psychological health. Accordingly, Hypotheses 11 and 12 were formed as follows:

H11: Moral disengagement negatively affects people’s willingness to work.

H12: Moral disengagement negatively affects people’s psychological health.

 

3.2 Variables and measurement instruments

        All questionnaire items adopted in this study were translated from their original sources. To ensure their reliability and validity, the scales were revised according to the opinions provided by two public administration experts and two animal protection experts. The research population consisted of 30 employees recruited from the Tainan City Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office for a pretest, after which valid questionnaire items were identified and adopted for the actual survey. With the exception of a few items from the psychological health and mindfulness scales, all other items were retained.

        A 5-point Likert scale was adopted for all questionnaires, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) in scores. The variables are described in the rests of this subsection. See Appendix 1 for the analysis results of related factors.

3.2.1 Compassion fatigue scale

        In the present study, compassion fatigue was defined by symptoms resulting from care providers’ long-term, continual traumatic experience induced by their desire to help trauma victims. The compassion fatigue scale in this study was translated from the Compassion Fatigue Short Scale developed by Adams et al. (2006) and slightly revised with animals as the targets of compassion. The scale consisted of 13 items. According to the factor analysis results, the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) and Cronbach α values of the scale were .907 and .909, respectively.

3.2.2 Scale of willingness to work

        The seven items of this scale were translated from those devised by Leisink and Stejin (2009). According to the factor analysis results, all the items belonged to the same construct, and the KMO and Cronbach α values of the scale were .870 and .848, respectively.

3.2.3 Psychological health questionnaire

        This scale was based on and translated from the General Health Questionnaire created by Goldberg (1972). After the pretest, a total of five items were retained. According to the factor analysis results, the KMO and Cronbach α values of the scale were .752 and .754, respectively.

3.2.4 Moral disengagement scale

        The eight items of this scale were based on those devised by Moore et al. (2012) according to eight cognitive mechanisms that disrupt people’s internal moral consciousness, and they were slightly revised with animals as the targets of disengagement. According to the factor analysis results, the KMO and Cronbach α values of the scale were .773 and .788, respectively.

3.3 Questionnaire survey and analysis
3.3.1 Research participants

    A total of 340 Taiwanese animal protection administrative workers were surveyed. In addition to general animal rescue, animal protection administrative tasks include slaughterhouse monitoring, animal laboratory inspection, and stray animal shelter management (e.g., adoption, care, and euthanasia). When avian flu or foot-and-mouth disease pandemic arises, the massive slaughter of animals must be carried out. This adds to the compassion fatigue that the participants experience and makes it equivalent to that faced by medical care personnel when they witness situations of slaughter, abuse, and live experiments on animals. When required, they even have to execute the tasks of slaughtering and euthanizing animals themselves. In these situations, they may justify their actions using moral disengagement. Therefore, animal protection administrative personnel were deemed more suitable than general medical care personnel or social workers as the targets of this study, the goal of which was to explore compassion fatigue and moral disengagement.

Table 1 Number of administrative personnel in animal protection units in Taiwan and number of valid questionnaires returned

County/City facility

Number of administrative personnel

Number of valid questionnaires

1

Taipei City Animal Protection Office

40

40

2

New Taipei City Government Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office

50

43

3

Taichung City Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office

26

26

4

Tainan City Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office

30

24

5

Kaohsiung City Animal Protection Office

30

30

6

Animal Protection Office Taoyuan

20

16

7

Hsin Chu County Animal Disease Control Center

10

9

8

Miaoli Animal Care and Health Office

12

11

9

Animal Disease Control Center of Changhua County

10

10

10

Nantou County Animal Disease Control Center

10

10

11

Yunlin County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center

8

8

12

Livestock Disease Control Center of Chiayi County

15

0

13

Pingtung County Animal Disease Control Center

8

8

14

Animal and Plant Disease Control Center Yilan County

12

12

15

Hualien County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center

14

10

16

Taitung County Animal Disease Control Center

8

8

17

Animal Disease Control Center, Penghu County

5

5

18

Keelung City Animal Protection and Disease Control Center

15

15

19

Hsinchu City Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office

4

4

20

Chiayi City Government

3

3

21

Kinmen County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center

10

10

Total

340

302

         Source: Data compiled in this study

3.3.2 Data distribution and gathering

A questionnaire survey was conducted. The questionnaires were distributed from July 15 to September 15, 2017. The printed questionnaires were enclosed in envelopes and distributed using the contact window of each unit. After the respondents completed the questionnaires, they enclosed the questionnaires in the attached enveloped and handed them to their respective contact window. This was meant to reduce the doubts respondents might have had answering a survey. See Table 1 for the demographic information of the respondents.

3.3.3 Data analysis

        SPSS 20.0 was employed for the statistical analysis performed on the returned data. The missing data were identified as randomly omitted and were supplemented through mean interpolation. The statistical skewness value of each questionnaire item was <2, and its kurtosis value was <7 (Appendix 1). Therefore, the questionnaire fulfilled multivariate normal distribution and was applicable for regression analysis (Kline, 2005).

 

  1. Results

4.1 Differences between participants according to their characteristics in terms of compassion fatigue

The average compassion fatigue score of the participants was 2.84, and the standard deviation was 0.691. Compared with other variables, the mean score of compassion fatigue was the lowest, but its standard deviation was the highest (Table 3). In other words, compassion fatigue appeared to be the problem of a handful of employees rather than a prevalent problem among all employees. Therefore, the tragic suicide of Dr. Chian might have only been one of few extreme cases of compassion fatigue. A targeted search together with an appropriate compassion fatigue alleviation method should be adopted to solve the compassion fatigue problem among animal protection administrative personnel.

Table 2 lists the multiple regression analysis results on the effects of the demographic variables on compassion fatigue. Sex and Seniority affected compassion fatigue significantly. The β values of sex and age were .125 (p < .05) and .184 (p < .01). The male participants experienced higher compassion fatigue levels than the female participants, and the senior participants experienced higher compassion fatigue levels than junior ones. By contrast, job content and age did not affect compassion fatigue significantly (p > .05).

Accordingly, the effects of the demographic and job characteristics of animal protection administrative personnel on their compassion fatigue identified in this study differed from those reported in previous studies. Because the male participants experienced higher compassion fatigue levels than the female participants, Hypothesis 1 was rejected. Similarly, because the older participants experienced higher compassion fatigue levels than the younger ones, Hypothesis 3 was rejected. Finally, because neither seniority nor job characteristics were significantly associated with compassion fatigue, Hypotheses 2 and 4 were also rejected. These results warrant further investigation.

Table 2 Effects of the demographic and job characteristics of the participants on their compassion fatigue

Dependent variable

Compassion fatigue

(M1)

Beta

t

VIF

Independent variable

 

Sex

.125*

2.188

1.224

Age

.006

.096

1.366

Seniority

.184**

3.125

1.295

Rescue aid

.060

.872

1.762

Euthanasia

.123

1.874

1.615

Body cremation

.013

.185

1.719

Animal sterilization

-.005

-.085

1.267

Case investigation

.104

1.800

1.254

Wild animal protection

-.093

-1.679

1.149

Pet registration

-.048

-.802

1.359

Animal control

-.063

-.986

1.543

Animal adoption

-.025

-.371

1.649

Animal protection education

.043

.759

1.201

Shelter management

.005

.072

1.564

Shelter cleaning

-.088

-1.501

1.270

Adjusted R2

.049

F

2.210**

F

2.210**

Source: Data compiled in this study.

Note: *p < .05; **p < .01

4.2 Correlation analysis

To prevent collinearity, an analysis of the correlation between independent and dependent variables was conducted before the regression analysis was performed. To prevent the interference of the studied variables with other personal background variables, background variables that might have interfered with the research results were added to clarify their effects on both the independent and dependent variables. According to Table 3, the absolute values of all the correlation coefficients between the independent variables and dependent variables and between the interference variables and the aforementioned independent and dependent variables were <0.6. Accordingly, the correlation between the variables was moderate or low, and collinearity was thus avoided (Wu, 2011: 6-30).

 

Table 3 Mean, standard deviation, and correlation coefficients of the research variables

 

Mean

SD

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

1. Compassion fatigue

2.84

0.691

1

                                     

2. Psychological health

3.31

0.608

-0.534**

1

                                   

3. Willingness to work

3.68

0.562

-0.008

0.377**

1

                                 

4. Moral disengagement

3.06

0.604

0.227**

-0.295**

-0.179**

1

                               

5. Mindfulness

3.63

0.598

-0.108*

0.401**

0.499**

-0.126*

1

                             

6. Sex

.52

.500

.138**

-.066

.032

.143**

-.034

1

                           

7. Age

3.22

1.032

.088

.053

.106*

.015

-.020

.248***

1

                         

8. Seniority

2.63

1.403

.158**

.056

.080

.000

-.038

.040

.408***

1

                       

9. Rescue aid

.41

.493

.083

.078

.168**

.043

.145**

.210**

.168**

.037

1

                     

10. Euthanasia

.16

.371

.098

-.079

.051

.002

-.056

.102

.048

.010

.168**

1

                   

11. Body cremation

.24

.427

.037

.068

.146**

-.033

.085

.194**

.134*

.064

.379**

.463**

1

                 

12. Sterilization

.39

.488

.030

.029

.157**

-.023

.106*

.003

-.050

.023

.128*

.283**

.239**

1

               

13. Animal protection inspection

.43

.496

.113*

-.038

.107*

.042

.010

.118*

-.014

.052

.176**

-.029

-.009

.131*

1

             

14. Wild animal protection

.12

.329

-.020

.103

.129*

.031

-.009

.078

.082

.123*

.193**

.148**

.220**

.043

.194**

1

           

15. Pet registration

.39

.488

-.023

.075

.098

-.010

.109*

-.162**

-.051

.061

.049

.086

.147**

.331**

.176**

.008

1

         

16. Animal control

.31

.464

.006

.086

.125*

-.042

.144**

.183**

.133*

.022

.574**

.052

.275**

.081

.115*

.143**

.008

1

       

17. Animal adoption

.44

.497

.011

.059

.066

-.001

.167**

.021

-.008

.127*

.172**

.380**

.319**

.197**

-.063

.003

.310**

.128*

1

     

18. Animal protection education

.43

.495

.042

.074

.144**

.009

.090

-.146**

-.093

.089

.073

.020

.024

.219**

.262**

.063

.242**

.051

.102

1

   

19. Shelter
management

.32

.468

.053

.013

.105*

-.032

.080

.056

.033

.082

.252**

.436**

.342**

.157**

-.084

.062

.121*

.116*

.495**

.019

1

 

20.Shelter
 cleaning

.13

.341

-.030

.088

.078

-.079

.075

.090

.087

.093

.175**

.324**

.383**

.131*

-.036

.146**

.081

.133*

.298**

.066

.278**

1

Source: Data compiled in this study.

Note: *p < .05; **p < .01


4.3 Effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on the psychological health and organizational behaviors of civil servants

4.3.1 Effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on the willingness to work of civil servants

Hypotheses 5, 7, and 9 were formulated to clarify the effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on the willingness of animal protection administrative personnel to work. After controlling the demographic variables, the numerical values of said effects were examined. According to M2 in Table 4, the standardized regression coefficient (β) and regression coefficient test results (t) were as follows: (1) effect of compassion fatigue on the willingness to work: β = .059, t = 1.221; the level of significance was not reached (p > .05); (2) effect of mindfulness on the willingness to work: β = .461, t = 9.772; the level of significance was reached (p < .001); (3) effect of moral disengagement on the willingness to work: β = −.132, t = −2.806; the level of significance was reached (p < .01). Accordingly, Hypothesis 5 was rejected, whereas Hypotheses 7 and 9 were supported. Notably, although previous studies have indicated that compassion fatigue undermines the willingness to work, this study revealed that animal protection administrative personnel continued to be dedicated to their jobs despite their experience of compassion fatigue.

4.3.2 Effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on the psychological health of civil servants

Hypotheses 6, 8, and 10 were proposed to clarify the effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on the psychological health of animal protection administrative personnel. After controlling the demographic variables, the numerical values of said effects were examined. According to M3 in Table 4, the standardized regression coefficient (β) and regression coefficient test (t) results were as follows: (1) effect of compassion fatigue on psychological health: β = −.490, t = −11.522 (p < .001); (2) effect of mindfulness on psychological health: β = .316, t = 7.569 (p < .001); (3) effect of moral disengagement on psychological health: β = −.163, t = −3.913 (p < .001). All effects satisfied the level of significance. Accordingly, Hypotheses 6, 8, and 10 were supported.

Table 4 Effects of compassion fatigue, mindfulness, and moral disengagement on participants’ willingness to work and psychological health

Dependent variable

Willingness to work

Psychological health

(M2)

(M3)

Beta

t

VIF

Beta

t

VIF

Control variable

   

Sex

.006

.116

1.264

.016

.365

1.264

Age

.080

1.523

1.351

.054

1.173

1.351

Seniority

.034

.665

1.302

.104*

2.269

1.302

Rescue

Aid

.040

.670

1.789

.072

1.344

1.789

Euthanasia

.013

.231

1.589

-.045

-.895

1.589

Body cremation

.033

.561

1.647

.022

.430

1.647

Sterilization

.080

1.579

1.272

-.007

-.162

1.272

Case inspection

.042

.821

1.256

-.037

-.827

1.256

Wild animal protection

.096*

1.989

1.149

.077

1.787

1.149

Pet registration

-.013

-.248

1.261

.015

.335

1.261

Animal control

-.016

-.281

1.552

-.035

-.697

1.552

Animal protection education

.081

1.646

1.199

.065

1.476

1.199

Shelter management

.013

.242

1.369

-.014

-.292

1.369

Independent variable

   

Compassion fatigue

.059

1.221

1.133

-.490***

-11.522

1.133

Mindfulness

.461***

9.772

1.094

.316***

7.569

1.094

Moral disengagement

-.132**

-2.806

1.091

-.163***

-3.913

1.091

R2

.309

.458

 Adjusted R2

.277

.433

F

9.496***

17.929***

F

36.366***

83.348***

Source: Data compiled in this study.

Note: *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001

 

  1. Research findings and future research directions

5.1 Research findings and policy suggestions

5.1.1 Providing both psychological and material support to alleviate the compassion fatigue of primary civil servants

        Although primary civil servants experience equivalent compassion fatigue to that of medical care personnel, they are in charge of allocating administrative resources. Consequently, their administrative discretion is restricted by their organization’s regulations, and they cannot execute their duties in accordance with their own ethical standards. The psychological stress caused by the feeling of sympathy for service receivers denied of needed services further exacerbates civil servants’ compassion fatigue. Civil servants instinctively cope with compassion fatigue by adopting a moral disengagement strategy, which further damages their psychological health and organizational behaviors. Animal protection administrative personnel are part of this category of civil servants. Therefore, in addition to psychological counseling, the government should provide material resources to animal protection administrative personnel or raise their discretion to alleviate their compassion fatigue.

5.1.2 Managers should take both employees’ willingness to work and psychological health into consideration

        The results of this study revealed that compassion fatigue does not affect the willingness to work (rejecting Hypothesis 5) but does impede psychological health (supporting Hypothesis 6). This indicates that animal protection administrative personnel experiencing compassion fatigue remain dedicated to their work but continually experience psychological health damage. If these employees are unable to leave their job positions, tragedies similar to that of Dr. Chian might recur. In the current performance-oriented trend of administrative management, most managers focus on employees’ willingness to work and job performance while overlooking their psychological needs. Accordingly, managers should not only focus on employees’ willingness to work but also take their psychological health into account to preemptively detect their compassion fatigue and offer them timely assistance.

5.1.3 Identifying employees that are experiencing compassion fatigue and require counseling according to their demographic characteristics and compassion fatigue indicators

        The mean level of compassion fatigue of animal protection administrative personnel in this study was relatively low, but its standard deviation was considerably high. Accordingly, administrative personnel with particularly severe compassion fatigue such as Dr. Chian are relatively rare, but those people’s scores on compassion fatigue are extremely high. These employees should be correctly identified through a selection process to improve the effectiveness of counseling resources available and prevent predictable consequences. The results of this study also revealed that male employees and those with more seniority exhibit higher compassion fatigue levels.

 

 

5.2 Suggestions for future studies

5.2.1 Investigate further on the effects of demographic variables and mindfulness on compassion fatigue

        Studies have contended that female employees were more prone to compassion fatigue than male employees because they were more sensitive and more willing to experience compassion. Younger employees with less seniority were also classified as more vulnerable to compassion fatigue because they have not developed satisfactory emotional coping strategies. These arguments, however, were deconstructed in this study. Further qualitative research is warranted to clarify the reasons why male employees and employees with more seniority are more prone to compassion fatigue and why age and job contents do not affect the compassion fatigue level of animal protection administrative personnel.

 

Appendix 1. Factor and validity analysis results of the questionnaire items

因素名稱 題項 問卷題目 因素負荷量 偏度 峰度 Harman's one factor test解釋變異量 KMO α
道德疏離

1

It is okay to sacrifice animals to defend human. .746 -.222 -.705 1.740 .773

.788

2

Neglecting animal welfare is okay as long as animals’ lives have been saved. .497 -.394 .148 1.487

3

Considering the goal of our organization, it’s hardly a sin to degrade animal welfare a bit. .651 -.434 -.291 1.692

4

People shouldn’t be held accountable for treating animals wrongly when they were just doing what an authority figure told them to do. .889 .058 -.209 1.384

5

People can’t be blamed for treating animals that are technically wrong when all their colleagues are doing it too. .862 .306 .086 1.343

6

It’s no big deal that a small flaw occurs when I take care of animals. .610 -.390 .034 1.297

7

Some animals have to be treated roughly because they lack feelings that can be hurt. .612 .108 -.617 1.235

8

Animals get mistreated have usually done something to bring it on themselves. .661 -.086 -.603 1.107
正念

1

I was more concerned with being open to my experiences than controlling or changing them. .694 .009 -.291 1.036

.906

.927

2

I was curious about what I might learn about myself by taking notice of how I react to certain thoughts, feelings or sensations. .701 -.079 -.216 .999

3

I was curious to see what my mind was up to from moment to moment. .730 .039 -.127 .957

4

I was curious about each of the thoughts and feelings that I was having. .756 -.059 -.337 .903

5

I remained curious about the nature of each experience as it arose. .766 -.096 -.197

.842

6

I was curious about my reactions to things. .724 -.032 -.048 .837

7

I was curious about what I might learn about myself by just taking notice of what my attention gets drawn to. .717 -.228 -.041 .791

同情疲勞-職業倦怠

1

I have felt trapped by my work. .729 -.066 -.377 21.379 .907

.909

2

I have thoughts that I am not succeeding in achieving my life goals. .726 .176 -.378 14.477

3

I feel that I am a “failure” in my work. .649 .410 -.073 6.971

4

I have felt a sense of hopelessness associated with working with animals. .635 .073 -.613 5.857

5

I have frequently felt weak, tired or rundown as a result of my work as a animals carer. .825 -.132 -.692 4.917

6

I have felt depressed as a result of my work. .846 .045 -.666 3.376

7

I feel I am unsuccessful at separating work from my personal life. .730 .473 -.469 2.909

8

I have a sense of worthlessness, disillusionment, or resentmentassociated with my work. .791 .205 -.536 2.608
9 I have had flashbacks connected to my animals. .778 -.040 -.303 2.507

10

I experience troubling dreams similar to those of an animal of mine. .843 .344 -.177 2.369

11

I have experienced intrusive thoughts after working with an especially difficult animal. .857 -.182 -.539 2.145

12

I have suddenly and involuntarily recalled a frightening experience while working with an animal. .833 .282 -.422 2.085

13

I am losing sleep over an animal's traumatic experiences. .840 .266 -.188 1.844
工作努力意願

1

I help new workers, even when not required to do so. .724 -.149 -.083 .762

.870

.848

2

I stay late if necessary to help out. .717 -.791 .811 .689

3

I make suggestions for improvements. .730 -.177 -.081 .664

4

I volunteer for things that are not part of the job. .701 -.144 -.175 .652

5

I don’t avoid extra duties and responsibilities. .756 -.409 .281 .643

6

I always work particularly hard. .694 .121 -.805 .576

7

I seek out training and other ways of improving my performance at work. .766 .048 -.527

.572

心理健康

1

Feeling unhappy and depressed .583 -.131 -.132

.255

.752 .754

2

Capable making decision .749 -.717 .706

.365

3

Face up problems .678 .008 -.258

.317

4

Able to concentrate .770 -.592 .261

.394

5

Enjoy normal activities .772 -.119 .307 .276

 Source: Data compiled in this study.


A Study of the Impact of Mindfulness and Moral Disengagement Adaptation Strategy on the Compassion Fatigue Phenomena of Civil Servants

Abstract

Both public administration scholars and practitioners believe that “good governance” relies on the involvement of compassionate officials. However, they overlook the fact that “compassion fatigue” often occurs when officials face the dual pressure arising from superiors’ orders and empathy for service receivers. This would inevitably not only affect their individual behaviors, but also influence the effectiveness of their service.

    A full-scale investigation of animal protection administrators in Taiwan was conducted so as to analyze compassion fatigue that civil servants would encounter and further establish a relationship between various variables and the hypotheses of this study by combining the studies of public administration and psychology.

    First of all, despite the low average level of compassion fatigue of the officials, some severe cases did exist, which could be distinguished and identified by the gender and age differences among officials. Secondly, it should be noted that compassion fatigue may affect animal protection administrators’ mental health in spite of little influence on their willingness to work hard. Finally, both “mindfulness” and “moral disengagement” are coping strategies which were developed for helping tackle the dilemma of compassion fatigue. Although applying the strategy of mindfulness can generate more positive impacts on individuals and organizations than that of moral disengagement, animal protection administrators tended to adopt the latter. Accordingly, encouraging animal protection administrators to adopt mindfulness instead of moral disengagement as their coping strategy will be a priority of work for the authorities in the future.

[Key words]:compassion fatigue, moral disengagement, mindfulness, animal protection.

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