'What's in it for me?': A study of professional identity and motivation in an NPM world

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Across Europe, universities have been undergoing radical changes following the implementation of New Public Management (NPM) as the predominant management regime. Studies suggest that this seriously affects professionals’ motivation and engagement in carrying out their tasks, leading to tunnel vision, checklist behaviour and decoupling (Jespersen 2008; Lind & Aagaard 2017; Møller et al. 2021) but also more pragmatic approaches with the adaptation of professional norms and values to the reality of financial and quality control (Evetts 2011; Sehested 2002).
However, little is known of the interplay between localized contexts and motivation, and whether this may either mitigate or worsen the effects of NPM. The paper will address this lacuna through the adoption of a mixed-method approach, consisting of a survey carried out with 73 academics in a Danish university followed by a number of narrative interviews (Georgakopoulou 2019) to investigate how they construct the effects of NPM on their motivation to carry out their work.
The survey shows that while intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci 2000) is closely connected to professional identity, extrinsic motivation may be activated when outside demands serve individual purposes. Furthermore, the interviews reveal that the same external demand may either lead to motivation or demotivation, thus supporting the argument that motivation is a complex phenomenon that cannot be explained exclusively through generalized causal relations but will need deeper investigations into individual experiences and contexts to be fully understood.

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Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2019. Small stories research: Methods – Analysis – Outreach. In Anna De Fina & Alexandra Georgakopoulou (red.), The Handbook of Narrative Analysis, pp. 255-272. Hoboken, NJ: Sage.
Jespersen, Peter Kragh. 2005. Mellem profession og management: Ledelse i danske sygehuse. København: Handelshøjskolens Forlag.
Lind, Jonas Krog & Kaare Aagaard. 2017. Danske universiteter efter reformbølgen: Fra makro-reformer til intra-organisatorisk forandring. In Eva Moll Ghin, Caroline Howard Grøn & Mads B. Kristiansen (red.), Styring og evaluering i den offentlige sektor: Festskrift til Hanne Foss Hansen, pp. 99-120. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag.
Møller, Marie Østergaard, Ann Hermansen & Søren Østergaard Møller. 2021. Faglighed og styring - fagprofessionel dømmekraft på socialområdet. DJØF-forlaget.
Ryan, Richard M., & Edward L. Deci. 2000. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25: 54-67.
Sehested, Karina. 2002. How new public management reforms challenge the roles of professionals. International Journal of Public Administration, 25: 12, 1513-1537
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
EventApplied Linguistics and Professional Practice conference - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20236 Sept 2023
Conference number: 13


ConferenceApplied Linguistics and Professional Practice conference
LocationUniversity of Glasgow
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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