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Victim-Blaming in Disguise? Supervisors’ Accounts of Problems in Healthcare Delivery


Using data from 77 supervisors in seven hospitals across the U.S. that participated in a national workforce development program for low-wage frontline workers, we explain how supervisors justified and reproduced social inequalities by accepting culture of poverty and neoliberal discourses and how supervisors used these discourses to resolve identity-work dilemmas. We demonstrate how supervisors engaged in identity talk that justified deprivation for workers and shielded management from blame. We discuss how supervisors subtly invoked class, race, and gender stereotypes—and thus reproduced ideologies supportive of structural inequalities—as they crafted accounts that drew attention away from economic and organizational problems and focused on the victims. This research extends the literature on blame attribution, explained here as victim-blaming in disguise, which subsequently shaped supervisors’ perceptions of their staff, defined workers’ opportunities, and inadvertently, reproduced inequality.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Michael Schwalbe and Dr. Christine Mallinson for feedback on early drafts of this manuscript.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with supplementary funds from the Hitachi Foundation.

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Correspondence to Kendra Jason.

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Jason, K., Turgeon, B. Victim-Blaming in Disguise? Supervisors’ Accounts of Problems in Healthcare Delivery. Qual Sociol 44, 253–270 (2021).

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  • Accounts
  • Blame attribution
  • Identity work
  • Neoliberalism
  • Healthcare