The motivation of the professional volunteer


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The motivation of the professional volunteer

Peter Aagaard, Ph.d. fellow, CVL, Copenhagen Business School,

Keywords: Voluntarism, professionalism, motivation, narrative method


Danish sports-NGOs have traditionally been based on voluntarism organized in associations, where democratic legitimacy is the key element for decision-making. Today the experience economy and the commercialising of sports put pressure on the historically based cultural structures of the Danish sports-NGOs. The concept of professionalism gains importance in the sports-NGOs own rhetoric, but with highly different meanings and consequences. In this paper I discuss the consequences for voluntary workers in two different Danish sports NGOs, with a focus on motivation, role and self-identity. The method is based on the collecting of narratives – both self-narratives and narratives of motivation – as a tool to understand the performance of voluntary workers. The conclusion is that volunteers can exercise different strategies of social control to maintain their motivation, and some of these strategies can give the behaviour of some volunteers an aspect of professional work. In that sense voluntary work and professional work share common ground and are not always opposites.


On the one hand we see a range of Danish sports NGOs with deep historical roots that goes 100 years or more back in time – where voluntary work has been a key-driving force and creator of continuity, and the organizational identity was focused upon the third sector or civil society. On the other hand we see pressure coming in from the outer world – new forms of engaging in voluntary work (Nielsen et al. 2004) and new possible sources of finance (Regeringen 2003). This is creating a push for more professional work in voluntary sports organizations. More managers, especially in the role of consultants and project leaders, will become part of the world of sports NGOs. The professionals invest their personal identity in the job {Hirschhorn 2003}, and are the only ones that are able to make the necessary connections in loose coupled organizations.

Traditionally, members of the sports NGOs in focus in my paper would tend to treat voluntarism and professionalism as opposites. The professionals are the ones that are employed by the organization – they get paid – while the volunteers do it for the cause, the social gathering or as a way to grow as a person. But don’t employees do it for the cause, with social motives or with the purpose to grow as a person, as well? And are the professionals necessary the only ones being paid?
The concept of professionalism and its opposite - amateurism are heavy categories in the world of sport. If we adapt these concepts upon the world of the volunteers, we will see the volunteers as the unskilled worker. But is that true? Can we find professional skills among volunteers, when we study the motivational processes they are engaging in? Are they able to take a progressive role in the processes of professionalism the sports NGOs are facing?
In general there is two ways of studying motivation in sociology: the actor-perspective and the structure-perspective.
The actor perspective sees motivation as a single intrinsic source within the individual. We could name it energy, need or drive, and in a more radical view it has nothing to do with the society the person is born into, but comes from the very nature of the individual. Following this all human beings are born with an enthusiastic life force, and it is therefore nonsense to claim that managers are in a position to motivate their employees (Maslow 2000).

The structure perspective sees motivation as a social construction. Motivation is the expression for a higher structural power (Miller and Rose 1990). In a radical view this perspective would even deny the existence of personal will. There is no single source, either in human beings or in society from where the energy floats. Either money or ‘saving the whales’-values can be seen as the single source of motivation. Social constructionist is more interested in how we create concepts like motivation and enthusiasm.

From the actor perspective we can learn that agency matters. People are not puppets in the theatre of structure. There are such categories as personal will and individual goal, and people do have the ability to reflect upon their own motivation (Giddens 2002). From the structure perspective we can learn that social relations and encounters plays a huge role in sense making and creation of self-identity – in others words who we are and what motivate us (Weick 1995).
With these insights in mind, this paper will adapt a narrative method to the study of motivation that will combine the actor and the structure perspectives. The key-question that will be examined is:
How are volunteers in sports NGOs able to create and maintain motivational behaviour during processes of professionalism? Are voluntarism and professionalism opposites or can it also be characteristics of the some logic of work?
With the help from a narrative method this paper examines volunteers ways to perform and to create positions of social identity, in others words to negotiate expectations to their role and way of performance.

The narrative method

Traditionally we see the narrative plot as the events in the story. But in my research it has a broader meaning. The plot is a frame of reference – or in Erving Goffman terms – a social frame (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2002). A frame that lies behind the concrete stories we hear in social encounters. In this project the social encounters are organized as focus group settings of voluntary workers. Following this I see the plot as an underlying cultural script of expectations – expectations concerning roles, routines and performance.

So a plot consists of a list of character (roles), a motive (goal, reason etc.), cause-consequences (somebody is doing something to somebody) drawn from a genre (epic, tragedy ect.).

Organizations tend to be conservative, but the folkloristic plot is not a static entity. It can change over time, but mostly at a very slow speed. At the micro-sociological level the plot constantly takes new forms. In a focus group session the respondents may start with a tragic plot, but they can choose to give their story a comic spin. According to Downing this is actually what Erving Goffman called keying (Downing 1997).
The plot-analysis can take place on four levels of the organization. These four levels represents four types – and complementary – accounts of motivational processes:
Management - what expectations and ideals do leaders have, when they – during interviews - are asked about enthusiasm - and the lack of it - among the volunteers of the organization?
Self-identity – what kind of autobiographical stories do the volunteers themselves present to us? What possibilities do they have to negotiate self-identity and expectations to performance? What are their pre-experiences? 1
Organizational folklore – what cultural expectations lies in stories about enthusiasm, told by volunteers in focus group settings?
Keying – what happens during the social encounters - like the focus group setting? How are the stories changing, what kind of keying can we observe – how are roles being negotiated?

On each of these levels the stories can be shaped by four main-genres – the epic, the comedy, the saga, and the tragedy. Besides that there are a number of sub-genres like the romance or the melodrama (see Gabriel 2000 for more information about genres). It is also common to speak of three different directions in keying and autobiography: progressive, stable and regressive (Downing 1997) and (Gergen 2000). But it is actually the same emotional scale we are dealing with – from the heavy feelings of sorrow and loss to the light feelings of success and commitment. Downing compares this to the keys on a piano – from dark keys to light keys. The main concepts of my narrative method can be presented in the following scheme:



Main character


Pride, admiration, commitment, loyalty



Pride, frugality



Compassion, admiration, sympathy



Sorrow, pain, fear, guilt, shame, anger



Figure 1: Four kind of motivation accounts

Case 1 - the association

The first case study took place in a regional association of a Danish sport NGO.

The association makes the impression of a rather open and broad organization. In the daily rhetoric we quickly learn of two groups – the employees and the volunteers. It is understood that it is the employees that are doing the professional work. And at the first glance it is very easy to see that the daily routines of the regional association would not function without the 7 employees, though there are about 150 volunteers involved in the regional association.

But the research shows that these two groups maybe are on the way to dissolve. Today a person can easily be both an employee – (f. ex. to be paid for being a trainer or coach) and a volunteer (f. ex. to do administrative work or to be a member of a local committee) – at the same time. But not everyone is in favour of this development, and some are very much in doubt what they actually think of this development. As the president of the regional association says:

But again, it is not the professionals [the employees] that run the business, because then it is a sports factory. It is the publicly elected [the volunteers], that runs the business, but there is a need for professional assistance to do it professionally at a high level and at a high efficiency and keep it that way. Because I must admit, that a voluntary workforce, it is unstable […] So in my opinion, the employees should do the boring work, so the volunteers can do the fun work. It is harshly said, but it is a bit like that.” (My translation)
But this view is to some extent in contrast with the overall development. As the board of the national association concludes:
We can not base our work on that belief that the volunteers outline the policy and the employees do the hard work. We must develop the co-operation between employees and volunteers in the direction of common projects, where the employees must support the functions that are most needed in the given situation.”2 (My translation)
We can already see this having consequences in practise. Instead of dividing the field in employees and volunteers we can observe three other roles among the volunteers (and employees) – each with their own script of conduct:

The stable group

Members of the stable group base both their autobiography and in their organizational storytelling upon the saga-genre. To them there is a connection between loyalty and the investment of time. The longer you stay the more loyal you are. They see the association as a place for social gathering. They do take some responsibility, but they do it with modesty. They prefer small and well-defined challenges. They see themselves as helpers, and do not take any kind of leadership upon they shoulders. They are the majority, and if they to don’t like the dominant attitudes of the progressive group, they can leave. That gives the stable group a substantial influence based upon a kind of dialectic of control (Giddens 1984), p. 16).

The progressive group

Members of the progressive group base their autobiography and their organizational storytelling upon the epic. They see themselves as the heroes of the association, but in fact they depend very much on the large group of stable members. There is a connection between having a progressive self-understanding, and having a formal title like chairman or president of a committee. But the progressive group don’t speak that much about titles. Rhetorically they must exercise a degree of egalitarianism. In doing so it becomes a sign of their high status that they don’t speak about it. The progressive group takes responsibility. Formal leadership is their sign of commitment.

The flexible group

The members of the flexible group also base their autobiography and their organizational storytelling upon the epic – they just don’t tell it to the others. They tell it to themselves. They reject the recognition from the rest of the association, and aim to get their need of recognition satisfied outside the association. There seems to be very few of them – or maybe they are just hard to spot, because they can easily slip into the roles of heroes and helpers for a short while. But they don’t want to be recognized as either heroes or helpers. First and foremost they want to be themselves, and no one else. They do not want to be an object of casting, and they don’t like social expectations towards their behaviour. In that sense we can see them as routine-breakers. With no social expectations and basically no legitimacy, the flexible group lives a risky organizational life – the others will most likely meet them with disrespect.

One of them is the young student SO. SO became a member of the association in the town, where he grew up as a child. To be involved in sports activities came naturally in his family. Some years ago SO joined a new ad hoc committee of the association, a committee with activities that fitted SO’s professional interests very well. He says that it gives him a practical dimension to his more theoretical university studies. SO thinks it is okay to do voluntary work for the benefits of others, but there must be something in it for him as well. Voluntary work is a give-and-take relationship, he says. SO quickly became the chairman of the ad hoc committee, but the title is of more formal status, he emphasises. He doesn’t think it is that fun to be the chairman. Some of the assignments dictated by the association are foolish, he thinks. What he actually likes the most is coaching. It means a lot to him to be told that he is a good coach. It is expected that the chairman comes to the board meetings of the association, but actually either SO or any other from his committee has attended any of the board meetings in a period of three years! But SO is still able to inform the board of the activities of the committee. And so the boards funding continues, even though SO and his committee are breaking some of the most elementary conventions and rules of the association. But no one questions the legitimacy of the committee. What SO and his committee actually receive instead is admiration for the ability to avoid the demands of the board. Recently the committee gained status as a permanent committee, and now SO is only chairman by name, since there is no constitution of the committee at the moment. A resent journey in South America with his girlfriend maid a huge impression on SO. Right now he is thinking of decreasing his voluntary work. Instead he wants to finish his education and get a job. Working for the association is not as fun as it used to be.

Sometimes the members of the flexible group are met with lack of recognition. But SOs story shows, that the flexible group often have ways to deal with the others, by exercising some kind of social control that can take the form of empathy or respect.
So, who are the professionals in this categorization? Well, the progressive and the flexible group agree that it is certainly not the stable group. And the stable group don’t protest to this perception, though their routine-focused work can be of a very high quality. But they just don’t want to deal with the performance demands of the professionals. The flexible group very much see themselves as the professionals, and when it comes to the new demands of flexible work (like the ability to work in a project organization or loose-coupled organization) the progressive group tends to agree. In making the impossible possible (a notion of the role as a politician) the progressive group still sees themselves, as the heroes, and the managers and the stable group tend to confirm the progressive group in this role.

Case 2 - the federation

The second case study was conducted with the focus on the board of another Danish sport NGO, which we can call the federation. It consisted of regional associations, that each was member of the federation.

12 members of the board – all volunteers - acted out as respondents. The elected president of the federation and the newly hired general director (which now has gained title as executive manager) spoke a lot of the ‘professionalisation’ of the federation. They saw the professional federation as a clear and favourable goal that should be reached in a few years time. What they actually meant with the expression ‘the professional federation’ was rather more hazed. It could be something that had to do with money flows, performance enhancement or new division of labour between employees and volunteers. It could all be explained by the dedication to professionalism.

My clear impression was, that the professional federation actually wasn’t an organizational identity to be reached. Instead it was something that had to stay in birth all the time, to keep the momentum of the current processes. The horizon was to be moved constantly, so new agendas and new decisions could gain legitimacy. This epic plot I called the success story.
But actually the success story didn’t play the same important role to the rest of the boards members. Of course they knew about the plans for professionalism, and they agreed. But it was another plot, which I called Them vs. us that was much more important to the rest of the board. The them vs. us-plot was the plot, about the battles – many of them with deep historical roots - between the dominant regional association in the federation and the others and smaller associations. This was certainly not an epic plot. This was a saga, or in fact a melodrama – of tribes engaged in an eternal fight between good and evil. This plot created emotions like anger and disappointment – but it also created passion. As one of the board members explains:
It is also [important] to understand, why you get disappointed. Because, the moment you don’t get disappointed, then you just don’t care […] It’s also how it is at home with my wife, if she don’t do as I tell her […], then I get bloody annoyed. It’s the same here [in the federation], right? [It is] in the moment I do not get annoyed at my wife, that we really have a problem, right?” (My translation)

The them vs. us plot created the key-role of the survivor, a role which the board members could identify with. The respondent’s autobiographies had a clear sign of being under influence of a traditional work ethics – like being a hardworking, loyal person that is committed to work for the cause of the federation year after year. If we are to believe the mythology of the federation you can even die from fighting for this cause. What we more or less indirectly are being told, deals with the pain and suffering they have experienced during the years of harsh political battles with the other regional associations. But it is emphasized that is a suffering they can overcome. The stories of survival, gets a comic spin in the end. This is what Gabriel calls “take it with a smile”-twist (Gabriel 2000).

As told in the beginning of the paper professionalism and its opposite - amateurism are heavy categories in the world of sport. And if professional is something you may become in the future, and the amateur is an identity position from the past, that you try to distance your selves from, it is easily to see, where the respondents place them selves: Right in the middle – as a day-to-day hardworking person, trying to survive in a world that could be very insecure, if not the historical rooted cultural structures – in this case the Them vs. us-plot - offered a recognizable role: the survivor.
There are mainly two ways to play the role as survivor. You can either reflect the pain in an open, but though underplayed manner – or you can suppress the pain. If you suppress the pain you must be able to use authority or focus on strictly specialized skills. Here three respondents in one of the focus group session talks about bad experiences:
JE: I must say, that of course each of us has had some disappointments. But hardship also strengthens you, actually.

AN: It makes you more mature.

JE: Not the way that you are being pushed beyond your limits. But then you get the strengths, right?

MO: No, I don’t think I had [any bad experiences]. I have been blamed in the newspapers a couple of times, and that I take easy. When the base of support is okay, then I am…. then I am cool, right? (My translation)

MO got the ability to suppress the pain. His personal behaviour is a mix of authority (which the two other respondents grant him with) and humour (comic spin). His has got a long successful voluntary carrier in the federation, and he has got some specialized skills (economy and budget planning). His closest ally, the federation’s president, speaks highly of him – but not as a person grown wiser or as a person who has developed to be a better person. His ally sees him as a person that always has been the same. That makes him credible and reliable.

The federation got a problem when they emphasize the them vs. us-plot. The quest towards professionalism – also means that the federation must deal with new actors in a highly commercialised reality – actors like sponsors, TV-networks, and a very critical sports press. Of course the boards members knows that, but they know no essential stories about that. They have no first-hand experience with this new situation. They became a member of the federation years ago, where professionalism, mostly had something to do with players signing contracts with local clubs – not signing multimillion contracts with TV-networks.

We can see the dominant saga-genre in the association (the plot of the stable group) as a sign of the fact that the volunteers are more or less free to do what the want, despite that the association are under pressure to use more professional work. The stable group don’t meet any particular demands of performance, and if they do, they will try to ignore them, by saying that there should be room for everybody in the association. On the other hand there seems not to be that much at stake in the internal fight for fame and knighthood (recognition). There is some fame to gain in the association, but it is on a lower level than in the federation. In the federation – the comedy is the dominant genre – a genre that emphasizes the role of the sole survivor against the system. Here fate has to do with life and death. If you in some manner succeed, the amount of suffering will make you famous, and they will tell stories about you in the years to come.

You could also see the two case studies as being conducted at two different levels of organization of voluntary work. In the association we are placed at the bottom and in the federation we are placed in the top. Following this the hypothesis could be, that we would meet the saga in the bottom of the federation and the comedy in the top of the association.

It is surprising how much the expectations towards the volunteers' performance are dominated by the formal structure of the organization. This could be the importance of being chairman, secretary, referent, etc. – or the importance of which regional association you’re a member of. In others words the volunteers depend very much upon the well defined routines that follows from the formal structure. On the other hand, some of the respondents – the flexible group - exercise their ability to improvise upon the plots – and at the same time gain – maybe not the respect - but the accept from the other groups. So the borders of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour are not completely given.
But I expected that there would be more of this improvising, routine-breaking, entrepreneurial behaviour – because the respondents are volunteers. My explanation is that it was not so, again because they are volunteers! The freedom they have, as not being employed by the organization, which they by their free choice is a member of, can also be a source of insecurity: What is expected of me? How can I gain acceptance, respect and recognition? That could be the key-questions of the volunteers if they didn’t have the formal structure – and according to this the sense making narrative plots of the organization to tell them this. In other words – the formal and cultural structures are necessary to keep what Giddens would call their ontological security (Giddens 2002) intact.
But people are different. Some are keener on using the freedom of possibilities than others, some have a greater ability to use the freedom - and some have a greater ability to maintain continuity than others. A simple model can illustrate this:

Normal behaviour

Deviant behaviour

Liquid motivation



Solid motivation



Figure 2: Four kinds of work logic.
Normal behaviour makes sense. We knows why A does B, because of C. So B is meaningful. Normal behaviour is always expected and never surprising. Deviant behaviour is from starting point nonsense. As long as we don’t know why A does B, B is meaningless. Deviant behaviour is surprising.
We have liquid motivation when goals, means, effect-consequences becomes unknown or blurred. We have solid motivation when goals and means are clear and effect-consequences are know. You could also say, that solid motivation are disciplined behaviour, while liquid behaviour are not (yet) disciplined by social structures or by the self-reflecting abilities of the individual.
What to be categorized as either liquid or solid motivation also depends upon the angle from which you observe the behaviour. Management may see an employee’s behaviour as liquid motivation, while the employee can easily see his or her own motivation as solid.

Together this creates four logics of work: You behave cautiously when you don’t know the situation, and you don’t know how to respond. You may not understand the rules and routines of the organisation, but you following along like rest of the members. You behave traditionally when you know the situation, you know and agree with the rules and routines and act accordingly. You improvise, when you try to break the rules and routines of the organisation, though your attempts of breaking loose haven’t got any clear direction. You behave individualistic when your routine breaking behaviour finds direction.

The two cases show us how routines are playing together with the experience of enthusiasm. If your mind is set on breaking routines, like the flexible group in the association, you run the risk of being seen as a danger to the rest of the organization (Hirschhorn 2003), especially during turbulent times. The others can see you as a villain, or maybe even the source of the turbulence. This lack of recognitions is not a threat to the self-identity, so it is not a direct problem for the flexible group. But the lack of cooperation – and in the end the discharge of the association, is. On the other hand: If the situation is stable the routine breaker are more likely to get closer to heroic status, the longer he or she are able to continue the routine breaking behaviour. At some future point someone will be able to create meaning of the routine breaking madness he or she are conducting.
If your task is to maintain the routines, you run the risk of being exposed to a reality-shock, when the pressure of the outer world try to set you in the mode of constant change – like the ongoing processes of professionalism - in other words: to be flexible. You will be seen as a conservative or dogmatic person, you may in fact be seen as the very reason why the needed organizational change is not happening. On the other hand: In very turbulent situations your stable, routine maintaining behaviour can be recognized as a symbol of loyalty – you may even be the reason why the organization are able to overcome the crisis.

The narratives of SO and MO can be seen is this perspective:

Routine breaking

Narrative of SO, an individualist, a routine-breaker, a member of the flexible group in the association


The narrative of MO, a traditionalist, a routine-focused person, a leading member of the federation

Routine focused

Figure 3: Narratives of individualist and traditionalist
The significant features of narratives of individualism - solid motivation + deviant behaviour (the top line):

  • The behaviour is focused on solo performance, following your own goals

  • The risk of meeting disrespect is higher than the possibility of recognition

  • The protagonist will more often see him or herself in opposition.

  • The most important resources the protagonist can invest are responsibility, but also empathy and charm can be useful.

  • Motives of freedom are valued high.

The significant features of the narratives of traditionalism - solid motivation + normal behaviour (the dotted line, below the timeline):

  • The behaviour is focused on keeping routines and social expectations.

  • The possibility for meeting recognition is higher than meeting disrespect

  • The protagonist will often see him or herself as one you incarnate the true values of the organization. This is often presented as nostalgia.

  • Time is the most important resource the protagonist can invest

  • Social motives are valued high.

No matter where the protagonist starts on the vertical scale, he or she will try to stay on or return to the same level. If the protagonist starts high he or she will runs the risk of being accused of disloyalty and/or to be difficult to cooperate with – and the protagonist will be forced closer to the routine focused and predictable behaviour. The protagonist sense of freedom will drop and so will the feeling of enthusiasm. If the protagonist starts low he or she will quickly meet the demands of breaking routines, to improvise and to be more flexible. The insecurity will increase and the feeling of enthusiasm will drop.

To avoid the dive in the feeling of enthusiasm the protagonist can exercise one or more forms of social control: you can promise to behave better, but do nothing different (produces time) – decrease your field to a specialized area (limits social expectations and may increase the others dependency of your specialized skills) – use charm (produces tolerance) – blame others or make them the messengers of the bad news (limits social expectations and may produce ‘invisibility’) - use empathy (produces respect) – use authority (produces limited effectiveness).

If the protagonist is not able to use these forms of social control the narrative will end as a tragedy. On the other hand - if the protagonist is successful in the eyes of the organization, his or her story may be elevated to official corporate mythology (Gabriel 2000).
All stories of motivation deals with both liquid and solid motivation, but the one type of motivation may only play a part in the story as a negation of the other type. The strong plots, like the success story of the federation, deals with both types of motivation actively, having a goal (solid motivation) - the professional federation, whit many different implications and ways to achieve. You could even say that the success story got a kind of imperialistic functionality (liquid motivation).
But stories that are based only upon liquid motivation – in other words cautious behaviour or improvisation – haven’t got a chance on the higher levels of the organization (folklore and management). If you are not able to connect goals and means, cause and consequence, your behaviour will be seen as meaningless. Improvisation and cautions behaviour cannot endure.

There is a kind of fashion in the motivation discourse. Previous it was seen as good manner to give a clear and confident answer to the question: “Why did you do it?” Here the answers could be: “Because I needed the money” or “Because it was for a good cause”. Today it is also accepted to give more ambiguous answers like: “Because it was fun”, “Because it was exciting” or “Because it seems to be a good experience”. The contemporary answers got the fantastic ability that they preserve the cause-consequence (solid motivation), and that they can also be adapted on almost everything (liquid motivation). It also seems to be answers with a more emotional fundament that are avoiding logic-rational reflections upon action. It is libido that makes no difference, as Pierre Bourdieu may say (Bourdieu 2003, p. 154). But it does make a difference – in the context where the storyteller is acting. On the other hand the more clear and confident answers points in the direction of more instrumental reasoning, which puts emotional life in the background, or under control. Here the libido makes a difference, you could say. These instrumental answers are more precise, and this precision produces trust in the minds of the audience. You increase your chances to be seen as a trustful and brave person, if you are able to tell exactly why you did what you did. Compared to this emotional answers may seem to be a bit cheap. But both types of answers are difficult to maintain in a working day, which is very turbulent and changing. Both types of answers run the risk of being eroded by the reflective conditions of late modernity. Constantly, we will be in doubt: “Did you just do it for the money? Or was there also another reason?” and “Did you just do it because of the excitement? Or was it also because you learned something new?”

In this paper I have examined the creation and maintaining of motivation in two different Danish sports NGO.
The paper is applying a method based on the collecting of narratives through, among other things, focus group settings. The method has shown productive as a tool to describe the challenges processes of professionalism creates to the traditional ways of doing voluntary work.
The paper answers two questions, first:
How are volunteers in sports NGOs able to create and maintain motivational behaviour during processes of professionalism?
The paper argue that motivation derives from the ability to create and maintain self-identity (autobiography) and influence the creation of roles (motivation folklore or official organizational mythology), in other words to negotiate roles or social identity positions.
The paper presents the concept of solid and liquid motivation in the context of voluntary work: Action is oriented between solid (routine maintaining) and liquid (routine breaking) motivation, and the papers discuss the rules, risk and possibilities of engaging in both types of motivation.
Both types of motivation can be found in every organization. You could say that in late modernity the one type of motivation constitutes the other. And some organizations are better to deal with the presence of both types of motivation than other organizations. Tolerance is a resource or practised value in these organizations.

It is open for discussion whether the concepts of solid and liquid motivation in it self overcome the actor-structure dichotomy in the study of motivation, or just treats them as a duality, like the theory of structuration (Giddens 1984). It would probably be more correct to say that the concept of liquid motivation is generated from a social constructionist perspective, which has an eye for the shifting character of the world and the temporality of entities – while the concept of solid motivation is generated from a realist perspective, which has an eye for the necessity of keeping entities essentiality and need for the creation of connections in a ambiguous world.

For future research the relevant questions would be: Under which (changing) conditions are liquid/solid motivation appropriate? What creates the shift from the one type of motivation to the other? Under which conditions can the two types of motivation coexist? When is it appropriate that they coexist, and when is it appropriate that they conflict?
Are voluntarism and professionalism opposites or can it also be characteristics of the some logic of work?
The paper questions the traditional concepts of volunteers and professionals as opposites and concludes that some aspects of voluntary behaviour can indeed be professional. In fact we may change our concept of professional behaviour in the light of the means some of the respondents in my study exercise.
Both the stable (traditionalistic) and the flexible (individualistic) volunteers can be described as professionals, if the conduct an ethical defendable behaviour.
The flexible volunteers may not always know where they are going, but they know whom they are. They are in other words self-confident, though the environment of the voluntary organisation during processes of professionalism can be very ambiguous. Combined with the ability to approach and deal with social relations – using ethical acceptable ways of social control – these persons are beyond question of high value during organizational change.
The stable volunteers are also self-confident, but they are much more depended upon the organization. The can also be of high value during organizational change. They are not the ones who present new, bright ideas. Instead they are the ones that remind the rest of the organizational members of the history and true values of the organization.

Of course we should not tolerate everything volunteers do. Voluntary work is not a holly, sacred act just because it is done for free. An organization that is changing all the time, in other words constantly breaking routines, is a weak organization. And an organization that will not adopt to a changing environment, in others words keeping the same old routines - is also a weak organization.

Some of the forms of social control the actors are able to exercise, as I mentioned above, are highly unethical. Even charm can be unethical, in situations where the charmed people do not know the consequences of the relations there engaging in (Larsen and Aagaard 2003). Charm in that sense is manipulation.
But other kind of characteristics – like empathy and respect can very well be the true features of professional behaviour. The professionalism of the volunteer is characterized by the ability to exercise an ethical defendable behaviour. Tolerance, respect and emphatic disturbance are the main characteristics. They have manners you could also say. The organizations that build and nurture these characteristics are in some aspect true professional organisations.
It is too simple to say that the flexible volunteers are the initiators and implementers of the organizational change - in other words the leaders - while the stable volunteers are the followers. This would be a classic, but not very comprehensive, view upon leadership as a top-down relation. Of course leadership is also bottom-up. It builds upon acceptance. So flexible volunteers are not always the ones who symbolises the organizational change by taking a leading position. The stable volunteers might as well do that. What we must understand, when we are studying organizational change, are the complex relations and rules between people with stable, routine-maintaining behaviour and people with routine-breaking behaviour. That is the key to understand leadership and motivation based upon sense making.


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1 In my project the autobiographies are written, collected through a tool that could be described as a mix of a weblog and an Internet-based questionnaire.

2 Written introduction from the national board of the association to the general assembly, d. 24. - 25. September 2004.

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