Instilling and distilling a reputation for institutional excellence

Margitta B. Beil‐Hildebrand (Regensburg, Germany)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This ethnographic investigation of a general hospital aims to critically analyse a much lauded corporate culture. Rather than accepting the managerial and academic claims concerning the mobilisation of corporate culture at face value, this study builds upon a labour process analysis and takes a close look at how it actually seems to work.


The paper explores and describes how executive managers seek to design and impose corporate culture change and how it affects the nursing employees of this organisation. This was achieved by means of a six month field study of day‐to‐day life in the hospital's nursing division.


The results lend little support to the official claims that, if managerial objectives are realised, they are achieved through some combination of shared values and employee participation. The evidence lends more support to the critical view in labour process writing that modern cultural strategies lead to increased corporate control, greater employee subjection and extensive effort intensification. The contradiction this brings into the working lives of the employees leads to the conclusion that the rhetoric of corporate culture change does not affect the pre‐existing attitudes and value orientations of nursing employees. However, there were considerable variations in how employees received the managerial message and thus, by their degree of misbehaviour and adaptation, affected the organisation itself as well as using the cultural rhetoric against the management for their own ends.


The paper concludes that an extended labour process analysis is necessary to challenge the way in which corporate culture change is explored and described by management academics and practitioners.



Beil‐Hildebrand, M. (2005), "Instilling and distilling a reputation for institutional excellence", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 440-465.

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