Managerialism and Its Consequences for Professional Identity: A Comparative Analysis of GPs and Secondary School Teachers

Date01 September 2021
Published date01 September 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2021, Vol. 53(8) 1178 –1202
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0095399721993744
Managerialism and
Its Consequences for
Professional Identity:
A Comparative Analysis
of GPs and Secondary
School Teachers
Wiljan (P.M.A.) Hendrikx1
Literature on the consequences of managerial reform for professionals in
public services has often taken the professions as universal phenomenon,
unaffected by sectoral heterogeneity. However, focusing on professionals’
own perspectives, this study notes important similarities and variations
between professionals from two domains—GPs and teachers. The findings
are attributed to professional identity values of excellence, ethics, and
engagement, against which reforms were directed, and to the capacity of
different professional groups to develop strategies based on these values.
Suggesting that the professional identity of specific professions is key creates
different conditions and consequences for introducing new management
managerialism, professional identity, GPs, teachers, sectoral variation
1The Netherlands School of Public Administration, Den Haag, The Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Wiljan (P.M.A.) Hendrikx, The Netherlands School of Public Administration, Lange Voorhout
17, Den Haag 2514 EB, The Netherlands.
993744AASXXX10.1177/0095399721993744Administration & SocietyHendrikx
Hendrikx 1179
Despite increasing attention for professional roles in collaborative gover-
nance approaches (Aschhoff & Vogel, 2019; Steen & Tuurnas, 2018), over
three decades of public management reforms leading to managerial changes
have left a clear mark on public services in most western countries (Hendrikx
& Van Gestel, 2017; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2017). “Managerialism” refers to
“governmental public policy diffusing managerial thinking into public orga-
nizations to measurably improve organizational efficiency” (McGivern et al.,
2015). Even new collaborative forms like network governance and co-pro-
duction of public services with citizens (Aschhoff & Vogel, 2019; Osborne
et al., 2016; Sørensen & Torfing, 2011; Tuurnas, 2015) are often still steered
by managerial means, for example, by encouraging collaboration through
financial incentives, by protocolizing professional practices and by measur-
ing performance for transparency purposes.
Although literature provides us with many overviews of these managerial
reforms, few systematically compare what the consequences are for the pro-
fessionals who are responsible for public service delivery within those mana-
gerialized contexts (Adams, 2015; Mauri & Muccio, 2012). Professions can
be described as institutionalized occupations (Abbott, 1988; Evetts, 2013),
whose members are granted a certain amount of autonomy and prestige
to deliver services that are key to society (Gardner & Shulman, 2005;
Noordegraaf, 2015). Although its exact characteristics are up for scholarly
debate, professionalism is commonly associated with high-skilled exclusive
expertise, objectivity, and altruism often captured in (implicit) ethical codes,
and workers’ commitment to clients and profession (Abbott, 1988; Gardner
& Shulman, 2005; Leicht, 2016). Most scholars have studied the conse-
quences of managerialism for a single profession (Brodkin, 2011; McGivern
et al., 2015; Shams, 2019), or infer general (inter)national trends (Dent et al.,
2016; Faulconbridge & Muzio, 2011; Leicht et al., 2009) without sectoral
specificities. This does leave us with the question whether results of single-
case studies or of the more abstract and generalized trends are relevant to all
domains, or may need further specification. Therefore, despite few excep-
tions (see Klenk & Pavolini, 2015; Turner et al., 2016), more comparative
analyses of the impact of managerialism on professionals across various pro-
fessional domains are necessary (Adams, 2015; Hendrikx & Van Gestel,
This is particularly true for the perspectives of professionals themselves
(Denis et al., 2015), whereas managerialism has implied changes at public
sector level (macro-level) and at the level of individual public services orga-
nizations or policy networks (meso-level). However, much remains unknown

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