Struggling between control, competition and collaboration: concepts about hybridity and its main antecedents and consequences

Date: 17 June 2019

Venue: University of Antwerp, City Campus, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 12:30 PM

PhD candidate: Lode De Waele

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Arjen van Witteloostuijn

Short description: PhD defence Lode De Waele - Faculty of Business and Economics


Public organizations attempt to cope with processes of institutional change by continuously looking for ways to ensure legitimacy as their survival - in contrast to their profit-driven counterparts within the private sector - is largely dependent on the public support obtained from elected officials, civil servants and civilians. Yet, the demands stemming from the institutional environment are diverse and often reflect conflicting viewpoints. Public organizations in response to these challenges employ mechanisms such as selective coupling in an attempt to balance between conflicting institutional logics, which cause the emergence of hybrid forms.

However, literature lacks clear conceptual frameworks that define how these institutional logics actually look like. Furthermore, within the current discourse in the field of Public Administration, empirical research addressing the main drivers of hybridity is inadequate, resulting in a limited understanding of its primary antecedents. Finally, although hybridity has been found to potentially affect an organization’s performance, there is scant empirical research examining these claims.

Relying on a neo-institutional framework, this dissertation identifies and defines the main institutional logics within public organizations, studies which processes drive public organizations towards hybridity, and analyzes how hybridity might affect organizational performance. Some overall conclusions are that core institutional changes drive public organizations toward developing hybrid forms; yet, public organizations in response to these changes tend to pursue different strategies, ranging from segmentation to segregation and absorption. Furthermore, hybrid forms are likely to cause considerable performance-tensions.

One of the most challenging performance-tensions has been empirically confirmed, using a quasi-experimental research design. As a result, we found that public servants with high levels of Public Service Motivation in hybrid organizations that combine bureaucratic and New Public Management-related logics are more likely to engage in acts of pro-social rule-breaking in order to pursue customer-oriented goals, which results in client-based discrimination. In conclusion, although not every organization is subject to hybridity, our studies showed that hybridity is a widespread phenomenon, caused by large shifts in institutional demands with substantial effects on organizational performance.