Journal of Management Control

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 93–113 | Cite as

Performance measurement, cognitive dissonance and coping strategies: exploring individual responses to NPM-inspired output control

  • Berend van der Kolk
  • Wesley Kaufmann
Original Paper


The potential of increasing effectiveness and efficiency via performance measurement practices seems clear for scholars and practitioners alike. At the same time, it is often argued that quantitative performance measures fail to do justice to the complex environment of public sector organizations. This paper takes a first step toward incorporating and operationalizing cognitive dissonance theory to make sense of the different beliefs that public workers hold regarding performance measurement practices that are inspired by the New Public Management movement. We analyze a dataset of 34 interviews with employees working in policy departments, and we identify various indications of cognitive dissonance regarding the use of performance measurement at the individual level. Furthermore, we find that employees aim to reduce this dissonance by changing their behavior and by avoiding tasks that do not yield quantifiable results. This paper contributes to the management control literature by exploring how individuals with complex tasks respond to performance measurement practices.


Performance measurement Cognitive dissonance Psychology NPM Coping 

JEL Classification

M190 M400 M410 M480 H830 



We are thankful to Catherine Needham, Tiina Tuominen, Thomas Werner Günther and the two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. The paper was presented at the 9th conference on Performance Measurement and Management Control in Nice (2017) and at a Public Administration seminar at the University of Leiden (2016). We would like to thank the participants of these events for their useful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IE Business SchoolIE UniversityMadridSpain
  2. 2.Tilburg Law School, Tilburg Institute of GovernanceTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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