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Organizational Change and Public Sector Work

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Organizational Change Management

Guest Editors

David Pick, Curtin University, Australia
Stephen T.T. Teo, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand (corresponding editor, [email protected])
Lars Tummers, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Cameron Newton, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

New public management (NPM) refers to an ideology that underpinned public sector reform of the 1980s and 1990s (Hood, 1991; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004; 2011; Dieffenbach, 2009).  At its core was a problematisation of existing public sector institutional forms and operations for which the solution was establishing organizational arrangements within state bureaucracies that could be subjected to modern management as practiced in the private sector (Brunsson, 2012).  Central to this are the ideas of steering, effectiveness, and efficiency, which proponents of NPM argue improve public administration by increasing accountability and productivity. Organizational change arising from NPM tended to be around structure, culture, strategy processes, and strategy content (Ashworth, et al., 2009). Some examples of these changes include the development of internal market-like competition, casualisation of employment, and the contracting-out of services in public hospitals, schools, and public transport.  

Despite the sizeable theoretical arguments in support of NPM-inspired change, empirical research has not always produced results supporting the anticipated desirable and expected outcomes. Rather than improving performance, change seems to create stressful environments for employees, especially when there are reductions in government funding support and tighter government requirements to do more with less. It can be argued that this has potentially significant deleterious effects on employee well-being which might in-turn negatively influence recruitment and retention. For example, research on higher education reform suggests that wide and deep changes to the forms and cultures of universities resulting from NPM-inspired change have had substantial impacts on employees in the sector.  These effects include increased job insecurity and stress (Chandler et al., 2000). Furthermore, Conley (2002) showed that civil servants had more temporary contracts and related job insecurity as a result of NPM reforms. 

Thoughtful assessment is then required to achieve a better understanding about NPM reform and its consequences. Of particular interest to organisational change researchers is the role managers as leaders take as agents of change (Fernandez & Rainey, 2006), developing better theoretical understandings of public sector management and governance of change, and formulating practical, evidence-based principles for implementing change (Cunningham & Kempling, 2009; Azzone et al., 2011).  As yet though the literature in these areas remains relatively under-developed.  Kickert (2010) points to a literature review about organisational change in the public sector by Fernandez and Rainey (2006) as an example that includes few references investigating public sector organisations. As Kickert (2010:490) notes, change management literature is more focused on the private sector and little attention is paid to the way in which public employees react to change.  Furthermore, a recent literature review on change management in the public sector of Kuipers et al. (forthcoming) argue that there is a gap in the literature on change management specifically using the public administration perspective (see also Vann, 2004; Tummers, 2013). The main aim of this special issue is therefore to encourage the development of new theoretical and practical insights about managing change in the public sector. 
Manuscripts submitted to this special issue should aim to identify, synthesise and advance knowledge about antecedents, processes and consequences of organizational change in public sector organizations. The papers in this special issue will address the challenges of organizational change, in particular achieving positive employee outcomes and attitudes within the public sector in a variety of national contexts. This collection of research will provide the reader with an overview of the extent to which the effects of NPM and the degree to which there are commonalities of experience across the different nations of varying economic, social, political and cultural characteristics. 

We therefore invite papers that relate to at least one of the following broad topics:

• HR Policies, leadership and employee responses to organizational change
• Strategic HRM (including high performance work practices) and change management
• Personal organizational fit, public service motivation and stress
• Organizational change and misconduct behaviors
• Unintended consequences of culture change in the public sector
• Job insecurity in public and private agencies
• Changes in the health care system and impact on employee performance outcomes
• Causes of stress before, during and after organizational change

The Guest Editors particularly encourage submissions of empirical nature, although theoretical papers that make an original contribution would also be welcome.  They will be interdisciplinary, adopt a multi-level approach, and/or focus on contexts that have so far received little attention. Proposed abstracts (maximum 1000 words, following the usual Emerald structure for abstracts) are to be submitted by 31 September, 2013 to the corresponding editor of special issue, Stephen Teo.

The authors of accepted proposals should submit the papers via ScholarOne's Manuscript Central ( by 30 November 2013. Please do not forget to ear-mark them as submitted for the special issue on “Organizational Change and Public Work” edited by Stephen Teo ([email protected]) et al.

Full submission instructions can be found on the author guidelines site at; please read through these instructions before submitting your paper. Articles will be between 3000 and 6000 words in length with a title of not more than eight words.


Ashworth, R., Boyne, G., & Delbridge, R. 2009. Escape from the iron cage? Organizational change and isomorphic pressures in the public sector. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 19(1), 165-187.
Azzone, G., & Palermo, T. 2011. Adopting performance appraisal and reward systems: A qualitative analysis of public sector organisational change. Journal of organizational change management, 24(1), 90-111.
Brunsson, N. 2011. New public organisations: A revivalist movement. In Chrsitensen, T. & Lægreid. The Ashgate Companion to New Public Management, Farnham, UK: Ashgate. 65-82.
Chandler, J., Barry J. & Clark, H. 2002. Stressing academe: The wear and tear of the new public management. Human Relations, 55: 1051-69.
Conley, H. 2002. A state of insecurity: Temporary work in the public services. Work, Employment & Society, 16(4), 725-737.
Cunningham, J.B. & Kempling, J.S. 2009. Implementing change in public sector organizations, Management Decision, 47: 330–344.
Diefenbach, T. 2009. New public management in public sector organizations: the dark sides of managerialistic ‘enlightenment’. Public Administration, 87(4), 892-909.
Deem, R. 2001. Globalisation, new managerialism, academic capitalism and entrepreneurialism in universities: Is the local dimension still important? Comparative Education, 37, 1-20.
Fernandez, S. & Rainey, H.G. 2006. Managing successful organizational change in the public sector. Public Administration Review, 66, 168-176.
Hood, C. 1991. A public management for all seasons. Public Administration, 19(1), 3-19.
Kickert, W.J.M. 2010. Managing emergent and complex change: The case of Dutch agencification. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 76(3), 489-515.
Kuipers, B.S., Higgs, M.J., Kickert, W.J.M., Tummers, L.G., Grandia, J., Van der Voet, J. Forthcoming. The management of change in public organisations: A literature review. Public Administration.
Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. 2004. Public management reform: A comparative analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rosenbloom, D.H. 2010. Public sector human resource management in 2020, Public Administration Review, 70(s1), s175-s176.
Tummers, L.G. 2013. Policy alienation and the power of professionals: Confronting new policies. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Vann, J. L. 2004. Resistance to change and the language of public organizations: A look at “clashing grammars” in large-scale information technology projects, Public Organization Review, 4(1), 47-73.