The Effects of New Public Management on Managers’ Work-Life Balance and Behavior
AL HEBSI, AHMED
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Through delivery and coordination of citizen services and government operations, the public sector plays a crucial economic role in most emerging and developed nations. In this context, the study aims to evaluate the outcome of new public management (NPM) on managers’ work-life balance (WLB) and behaviours. NPM is a critical approach adopted by government and public service institutions in the running of public service organisations. This study is inspired by the establishment of a centralised NPM in Abu Dhabi in 2010, which aimed to ensure that all services are delivered in a timely manner and within the expectations of all citizens. To date, only limited research has evaluated the impact of NPM on managers’ work-life balance and behaviours, which provides the rationale for this research. In order to achieve the aims of the study, data were collected through two rounds of semi-structured interviews with 21 managers employed in Abu Dhabi’s public sector. These data were supplemented with secondary data sources, which included journals and industry reports. The factors identified in this study include how WLB, organisation citizenship behaviours (OCB) and loyalty are influenced by NPM. It was found that the public sector has shifted its framework towards greater customer satisfaction, which has led to an increase in the workload of the managers. In addition, the results identified that two-thirds of the participants did not suffer from poor WLB due to NPM, although the remaining one-third did. While several participants agreed that this management style has affected their work and personal life, the attitudes of several managers remained positive. One of the primary reasons for this result was identified as being the extent of the NPM implemented in the organisation. For instance, participants who did not depict poor WLB were employed in organisations that did not report an extensive use of the private sector. In addition, the participants maintained positive attitudes to the increase in job responsibility, often stating that an increased scope of work was a natural phenomenon that came with the job. Moreover, where the organisations removed a level of hierarchy, this was often viewed as being beneficial as it reduced the number of reports. Several participants believed that while this management style resulted in a greater workload, it was towards achieving greater outcomes, and it enhanced their productivity, accountability and autonomy. One of the reasons for the limited impact of NPM on the WLB of managers could be the high levels of OCB that they displayed. In addition, the majority of the participants also depicted strong loyalty to the organisation that they worked with. However, the results do indicate that some of the participants suffered from poor WLB and that this negatively influenced their loyalty, but not their OCB. Age, sex, and nationality did not appear to have an influence on any of the proposed relationships. Participants with poor WLB depicted several key differences from their counterparts who had good WLB. The main differing factors included the manner in which NPM was implemented and the negative attitude of the participants when faced with an increasing workload. The key significance of the present study lies in its difference from prior research carried out in other contexts. Prior research has outlined that NPM leads to poor WLB in other countries. However, in the context of the UAE, as the findings have depicted, the link between NPM and poor WLB does not always hold true. One of the reasons could be the level and the innovative manner in which NPM has been applied in the organisations. Furthermore, the context of the UAE can also be attributed to the difference in the results. For instance, the general cultural attitude of the workforce in the UAE is geared towards achieving career success which could lead to them viewing additional responsibilities as part of their success. In addition, contributing to the success and prosperity of the nation could also be a factor.