Journal Article

From pure to hybrid professionalism in post-NPM activation reform: The institutional work of frontline managers

Eric Breit, Knut Fossestøl and Tone Alm Andreassen

in Journal of Professions and Organization

Volume 5, issue 1, pages 28-44
ISSN: 2051-8803
Published online December 2017 | e-ISSN: 2051-8811 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jox013

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ABSTRACT

To enhance knowledge about how hybrid professionalism develops, we examine the strategies adopted by frontline managers in handling requirements of transformation from pure to hybrid professionalism imposed by post-New Public Management (NPM) activation reform. Drawing on a multiple case study in the Norwegian labour and welfare administration, we outline three managerial strategies for handling these requirements—commodification, protection, and hybridization—and the forms of institutional work by the managers they involve. We find (1) that the development of hybrid professionalism is an exceptional, more than a dominant strategy, (2) that it is contingent upon the professional background and the entrepreneurial leadership traits of frontline managers, and (3) that it involves the ability and capacity of frontline managers to engage directly with the areas where the tensions between the organizational and the professional demands are most vivid (e.g. the targets, objectives and methods of activation). This engagement enables managers to align the (pure) social work professionalism with the administrative and standardized modes of contemporary activation work, rather than the professionalism being challenged or alienated by them. Although the hybridization strategy may be demanding for the professionals, it seems to be a central condition for fully operationalizing post-NPM activation reforms.

Keywords: hybrid professionalism; institutional work; frontline management; post-NPM reform; public service organizaitons

Journal Article.  9580 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Ownership and Organization of Enterprises ; Industry Studies ; Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behaviour

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