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The Lived Experience of Managerialization: Understanding Values Conflict in Nonprofits through a Pragmatic Institutionalism

Journal Title Journal of Management Studies
Published Date October 23, 2020
Research Type
Authors Erynn Beaton


Non-profit organizations are increasingly adopting business practices, an institutional phenomenon called managerialization. Sometimes those business practices cause conflict with, or drift from, the non-profit’s mission. We investigate the micro-foundations of this phenomenon by focusing attention on the lived experiences of organization members and advancing a pragmatic institutionalism. Empirically, we explore how managerialization is experienced in a contemporary non-profit, the Promenade Conservancy. We find that staff primarily experience managerialization through the interplay of a shared set of values. Consistent with existing research, we find conflict between the social and business values of the organization, which we refer to as inter-domain conflict. Surprisingly, however, staff experienced more salient intra-domain conflict among values associated with the social mission, which complicates traditional macro theories of intuitional conflict. Our pragmatic approach to institutions reveals the importance of shared values in people’s inhabited institutional experiences. We suggest that a pragmatic institutionalism provides a necessary lens to explore questions of moral agency in institutional research and increases its practical relevance.