Anna Pfeiffer defended her thesis “Management by Recognition: An Interactionist Study of Normative Control in Voluntary Work” on March 11th. Below you can find out more about Anna and her research, described in her own words.
I came to Lund in 2009 as an international student to study in the Master’s programme ‘Managing People Knowledge and Change’. With a background in history, sociology and political sciences from Erfurt University in Germany, I thought of this Master’s programme as a good opportunity to learn about management and leadership processes in various types of organizations. Through work experiences in political education and development cooperation–amongst others, with the German development agency Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the political foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)–I came to realize how important the human element is in achieving organizational goals. I expected that focusing my Master’s studies on Human Resource Management (HRM), would help me to be better understand what motivates, restrains, and supports people in their daily work. My goal was to put that knowledge to use in an organizational setting after graduating. Towards the end of my Master’s I realized, however, how much I had enjoyed gaining new theoretical perspectives. So I decided instead to stay on to pursue a PhD in the field of Organization Studies.
My PhD thesis titled Management by Recognition: An Interactionist Study of Normative Control in Voluntary Work explores the role of recognition in work life. Many contemporary work organizations are concerned with how they can influence employees’ intrinsic motivation. Their quest follows a widespread realization that people do not necessarily work harder because of monetary incentives or direct commands. Instead, people’s inner motives and their urge to self-actualize and get recognition, are seen as key factors influencing workers’ mindsets and behaviors. In order to stimulate and shape such inner motives, management scholars and practitioners increasingly bring ‘recognition’ forward as a management tool. My thesis labels this trend ‘Management by Recognition’ (MbR). MbR refers to the idea and practical effort of achieving organizational ends by making individuals feel recognized and affirmed for who they are and how they work. Based on an ethnography of the voluntary organization Communa (a pseudonym), which aims to enhance a ‘culture of recognition’, my PhD thesis analyses the mechanisms and effects of MbR.
During the time I spent working on my PhD thesis, I also engaged in teaching courses such as ‘Strategic Human Resource Management’ or ‘Organizational Culture, Identity and Leadership’, as well as in Master’s thesis supervisions. I have enjoyed the balance that teaching has brought to these thesis-writing years. It has allowed me to reflect about how I communicate my and other research to an audience. In addition it was an important exercise for practicing my management skills, for example, when coordinating seminars or mediating cultural issues in a diverse student body. Also my ethnographic engagement with the voluntary organization Communa where I worked with volunteer management, reminded me of how much I enjoy working practically. Based on this insight, I recently began applying for positions within HRM in international and/or knowledge-intensive organizations, such as the United Nations. Looking back at my original goal of gaining enhanced understanding of management processes, I feel that the PhD process has prepared me well for both a career in academia and one in HRM.