Athlete or employee. A study of professional handball players

Master's Thesis, 2014
81 Pages


Table of Content

Executive Summary

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem identification and research question
1.2 Focus and relevance of research

2 MethodologicalConsiderations
2.1 ResearchPhilosophy
2.2 ResearchDesign
2.2.1 Literaturesearch
2.2.2 Interviewingexperts
2.2.3 Focusgroups/Interviews
2.3 InterviewMethodology
2.3.1 Thematizing
2.3.2 Designing
2.3.3 Interviewing
2.3.4 Transcribing
2.3.5 Analyzing
2.3.6 Verifying
2.3.7 Reporting
2.4 Delimitation

3 Theoretical direction
3.1 Employee identity
3.2 Employerattractiveness
3.3 Employeeretention

4 Danishprofessionalhandball

5 Findings
5.1 Research results
5.1.1 A searchoftheliterature
5.1.2 Interviewing experts in the subject
5.1.3 Conducting interviews - summaries of meaning condensations

6 Analysis
6.1 Reflections on the interview process and the findings
6.2 Player 1
6.2.1 Theoreticalanalysis
6.2.2 Partconclusion
6.3 Player 2
6.3.1 Theoreticalanalysis
6.3.2 Partconclusion
6.4 Player 3
6.4.1 Theoreticalanalysis
6.4.2 Partconclusion
6.5 Player4
6.5.1 Theoretical analysis
6.5.2 Partconclusion
6.6 Player 5
6.6.1 Theoretical analysis
6.6.2 Partconclusion
6.7 Player 6
6.7.1 Theoretical analysis
6.7.2 Partconclusion

7 Discussion
7.1 Comparison to expert interviews
7.2 Comparison to literature search

8 Closingpoints
8.1 Conclusion
8.1.1 The players' attitudes and motivations towards employment
8.1.2 The players' attitudes and motivations towards employers
8.1.3 What make some employers more attractive than others
8.2 Managerial Implications
8.3 TheoreticalImplications
8.4 Directions for Future Research


Executive Summary

Being an elite athlete was once just a hobby. Something you did on the side, while studying or working. In many sports, it is today changed into a professionalized industry, where the athletes are not just athletes seeking to win, but also employees, who depend on their sport to pay for their cost of living. This thesis investigates which attitudes and motivations of elite professional handball players in Denmark have towards employment in general and employers specifically, and what makes some employers more attractive than others. The research topic is relevant not just for employers seeking to optimize their staff, but also for academics to understand a particular industry and profession, where the roots are in recreation rather than labour.

What the research found is that while playing handball is a job for them, this has limited impact in their professional lives. In their daily motivation it is handball, not money, that motivates the majority of them, and for all of them it is important that their skills and performances are recognized. For the majority of the players, recognition is especially significant as it gives meaning to a job, which often includes sacrificing family time for the job. One area where the players have been touched by professionalization, however, is a willingness to place themselves before the employer, as they will remain loyal only as long as they are satisfied. What determines satisfaction and what makes an employer attractive is largely based on what the club can offer the player from a sporting perspective, however the club must live up to the players' wishes for salary and family considerations to be considered. However, another very significant factor for motivation and the attitude towards the employer is that the club lives up to the promises it makes, as players will react very negatively if they are broken.

The findings should be relevant to employers within the handball industry, as the research has identified what things is part of determining motivation and presented an argument for why this is particularly important in professional sports. The findings also point to a need for further research into areas of motivational theory, where the findings and existing models do not match entirely.

1 Introduction

1.1 Problem identification and research question

Danish elite handball has grown from being a spare time activity, with the game being a (very serious) hobby, into being a professional endeavour, where the players are under contract and the sport is a job (Storm & Almlund, 2006). Since professional handball has its roots in recreation rather than labour, it is relevant to investigate whether the attitudes, motivations and decisions made by the members of that profession mirror that of recreation or of labour. In order to uncover this, the main explorative research question is:

RQ: Which attitudes and motivations do elite Danish professional handball players have towards employment and employers within professional Danish handball, and what makes some employers more attractive than others?

1.2 Focus and relevance of research

The focus of the thesis is on the Danish professional handball players' personal attitudes and motivations vis-a-vis employment and employers, and how this affects their choice of employer. This should be of interest, not just to academics in the fields of employer branding and Human Resources in sports, but also to employers, player advisors, and player associations, as the thesis provides further understanding of a certain group of workers in that industry.

2 Methodological Consideration

Research philosophy and theoretical science is an important part of academic writing. Epistemological and ontological considerations are not just theoretical endeavours, but the framework on which the entire research is built. The research philosophy shows the approach to the data and contains assumptions about the author's worldview, and will greatly influence research strategy and choice of methods, and shows how the research topic is being approached (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009); (Bryman & Bell, 2011).

2.1 Research Philosophy

Within the field of social science there are several different perspectives on which approach a researcher should take on a given phenomenon. Each perspective has a different view on epistemology (seeing reality as a social construct or as existing objectively outside the actor) and ontology (whether there is an objective truth or if it all depends on how the research is performed), and it is central to understand how these choices relate to each other (Grix, 2010); (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009).

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Figure 1 depicts a spectrum of the three main research directions. Positivist research attempts to explain objective, observable reality through the collection of objective data, from which law-like generalizations and testable truths can be made (Grix, 2010). This means that data will often be quantitative and collected in a structured manner that avoids obstructing the output, as the research must be value free from the researcher. Consequently, its epistemology assumes an absolute objective truth, and its ontology, an objective observable truth (Saunders et al., 2009). Post-positivist research acknowledges an objective reality, but it also stresses that different social actors see the objective reality subjectively. Even though the researcher is aware that this difference exists, it is still not probable to find the truth, but only a perspective of it (Saunders et al, 2009). As such, post-positivist research has objectivist ontology and an epistemology inclined towards interpretivism. Finally, interpretivism is at the other end of the spectrum and rose as a reaction to positivist research, because interpretivist researchers did not believe that the methods of natural science were right to analyse the social world (Grix, 2010). Interpretivist research rejects the idea of an external social world, independent of the actors, and instead works with the idea that the social world is constructed through the interactions of actors within it, and as a consequence there is not a clear separation between value and fact (Grix, 2010). Social phenomena do not exist independent of the actors, meaning that the researcher must understand the meanings that motivate the social actors and understand the world from their perspective to gain knowledge (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009). In this perspective, the ontological assumptions are subjective, while the epistemology is interpretivist.

In light of the research question, interpretivism is an appropriate research philosophy. It considers humans as social actors, who "interpret our everyday social roles in according with meaning we give to those roles. In addition, we interpret the social roles of other in accordance with our own set of meanings” (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009, p. 116). This is in alignment with the research question, which deals with subjective understandings of the reality of being a Danish elite professional handball player. In other words, the aim of the research is to understand, rather than explain. This also means that the method of data collection is qualitative, and the data collection techniques most often used in interpretivist research are small sample, qualitative in-depth investigations (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009). The handball players' attitudes and motivations towards employment and employers is the central part of what this research attempts to uncover, making interpretivism a better choice of research philosophy than e.g. positivism. In positivism, complete objectivism is strived for, and results are often quantitative rather than qualitative in order to be able to make statistical analysis, and eventually law-like generalization, like those from the areas of physical and natural science (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009). The difference between positivism and interpretivism can also be understood in the sense that where the former emphasises explaining human action, the latter gives special importance to understanding it (Bryman & Bell, 2011).

The chosen research philosophy rejects the idea of a reality external of the social actors. Individuals have separate perceptions of reality, and in this type of research, it is the task of the researcher "to be able to make sense of and understand their motive, actions, and intentions in a way that is meaningful” (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009, p. 111). Again, this is an approach well suited for the topic of this thesis, as the research aims to uncover the subjective attitudes and motivations of the social actors in a particular context, and as such it makes little sense to consider any objective social reality, as this simply does not fall within the research question posed.

Epistemologically, the knowledge gathered has an interpretivist nature. The outcome, that this thesis produces, represents the researcher's point of view relative to the phenomenon, as the research is value bound and "that the researcher is part of what is being researched and cannot be separated and so will be subjective” (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009, p. 119).

When attempting to view the world from other peoples' points of view and uncovering their subjective attitudes and motivations, it is difficult not to be influenced by one's own values and opinions, and even with a strive towards objectivity "your choice of philosophical approach is a reflection of your values, as is your choice of data collection techniques” (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009, p. 116). Consequently, many make the case that the researcher must explain her or his biases and assumptions, thereby giving the reader an understanding of why certain choices and conclusions were made (Bryman & Bell, 2011).

Saunders et al (2009) also note, how a key part of interpretivism is that the researchers enter the world of the research subject and attempts to understand the world from the research subjects' point of view. This trait is also why it is argued that interpretivism is often a very suitable research philosophy for areas such as organizational behaviour, marketing and human resource management. These areas are often both complex and unique, and it is thus essential to understand the particular circumstances and individuals involved with the topic (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009). Employee attitudes and motivations are closely related to these areas, and as such makes interpretivism an appropriate research philosophy.

2.2 Research Design

Overall, there are two general approaches to research, deduction and induction. Deduction is very structured, as it moves from theory to data, and most often deals with quantitative data. Induction, on the other hand, is more flexible depending on the development of research, seeks to understand the meaning humans attach to events, emphasises the context of the research, and contraryto deduction rather collects qualitative data (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009).

Given the intent of this research paper - to uncover attitudes and motivations towards employers and employment amongst professional Danish handball players, induction seems the better choice of approach as it emphasises the attainment of subjective meanings in order to formulate a theory, rather than deduction, where the point is to test whether data fits theory (Bryman & Bell, 2011).

The goal of the research question is similar to that of an exploratory study, defined as "finding out 'what is happening; to seek new insights; to ask questions and to assess phenomena in a new light'” (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009, p. 119). Given the limited research and academic knowledge in this area, an exploratory study is in place, in order to build a foundation of knowledge, which future studies can build upon. According to Saunders et al (2009) there are three primary ways of conducting exploratory research: A search of the literature, interviewing experts in the subject and conducting focus group interviews. In the following section all three tools will be discussed according to their usefulness in conducting the research.

2.2.1 Literature search

The literature search will present the existing knowledge related to the research question and other relevant findings to further understanding of the topic. This will include both scientific research as well as other data that adds to a greater understanding of the topic and helps answer the research question.

2.2.2 Interviewing expert

In order to understand professional Danish handball players, experts in the form of a player advisor and an executive from a professional handball club will be interviewed. These experts represent two different external perspectives on the players, from two parties that are closely related to the group of people being researched, making them a valuable source of differentiated knowledge on the research topic. The manner, in which these interviews will be conducted, will be presented in the interview methodology later in the thesis.

2.2.3 Focus groups/interview

Focus groups have the benefit of allowing multiple respondents to collectively construct meanings and make sense of phenomena through interaction, and allows for the respondents to challenge each other's opinions and statement in a manner that may be difficult in a one-to-one interview (Bryman & Bell, 2011). However, in a preliminary conversation about the research topic, the director of the Danish Handball Players Union, Michael Sahl Hansen, informed that their experiences show that professional Danish handball players are not likely to share personal information in groups (personal communication, March 20, 2014) and, as a consequence, it would be a misuse of time and resources to perform these. Instead the data will be gathered through one-to-one interviews. The manner, in which these interviews will be conducted, will be presented in the interview methodology section of the thesis.

2.3 interview Methodology

Kvale (2007) presents the 'Seven stages of an interview inquiry'. This is a framework, under which the entire process of interview driven research is explained, and different perspectives and methods are presented and discussed. This framework will be the basis, on which this research will be performed, and it will now be explained, what will be done in each of the seven stages.

2.3.1 Thematizing

This is the 'why' and the 'what' of the investigation, which is stating the research purpose and, naturally, this should take its point of departure in the research question: Which attitudes and motivations do elite Danish professional handball players have towards employment and employers within professional Danish handball, and what makes some employers more attractive than others?

If the research question is broken into parts, the first part, which asks about the attitudes and motivations towards employment, deals with the players' thoughts about themselves and their role as employees. The second part, which asks about the attitudes and motivations towards employers, has a more extrovert focus, as it deals with the players' side of the relationship with employers. The third and final part, what makes some employers more

attractive than others, is closely related to the second part. This is because it asks how these attitudes and motivations towards employers come into play, when the players' are able to choose between employers.

It is the research question and this explanation of it that is foundation for the research and for the following six stages of the interview inquiry.

2.3.2 Designing

As presented earlier, the study will include two types of interviews. The first one is with two experts who add an external perspective to the analysis, while the second type is six interviews with professional Danish handball players. What constitutes the right number of respondents can be a source of discussion, however Kvale (2007) notes that the standard number of interview subjects is 15±10, with the number depending on time and resources available. He warns against having too many interview subjects, as fewer interviews can give more time to prepare and analyze those that are conducted with a better outcome. Based on this, and the resources available in this research, six player interviews are deemed appropriate. Furthermore two expert interviews will be conducted before the player interviews and will serve as a point of discussion of the findings and the analysis.

Both types of interviews are semi-structured. The choice of semi-structured over unstructured interview is made, as the existence of a purpose and a specific approach to the interview requires that it is semi-structured, because "it is neither an open everyday conversation nor a closed questionnaire” (Kvale, Doing Interviews, 2007, p. 11). All interviews will be conducted in Danish. This will be done to avoid that the players will be limited by expressing their opinions in a foreign language. Consequently, whenever quotations are used they will have been translated from Danish to English.

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Of the 12 aspects described in Table 1, especially two are relevant to the theme of the research; 'Descriptive' and 'Focus'. With a 'descriptive' aspect, the respondent is encouraged to describe their experience, feelings and actions as precise as possible in order into gain nuanced descriptions. The 'focus' aspect, as the name reveals, focuses on certain themes chosen by the researcher. Questions are open-ended, but are guided towards certain topics, though not specific opinions. These are the most important aspect in relation to the research, as the analysis will depend on rich descriptions on themes related to the topic.

Finding respondents will be done using criterion sampling, a specific kind of purposeful sampling. Purposeful sampling is recognised as being useful in qualitative research, as it helps look at the experiences of specific groups of people rather than general trends (Palys, 2008), as is the case in this research. The criterions used are: 1) Respondents will not be employed by the same club. 2) All players are born between 1984 and 1988. 3) All are employed by a Danish club. 4) All have played for the Danish national handball team. Playing in different clubs makes the findings more broad, while the other criterions make the group more heterogeneous as all being national team members, at a similar age and all playing in Denmark ensure a relatively similar level of talent and career accomplishments. The particular age group and level is also representative of players in the peak of their handball career and are consequently very attractive employees making them are relevant segment for research.

2.3.3 Interviewing

Each interview will be introduced by a briefing where the topic of the research, the purpose of the interview and the practicalities concerning recording is explained. After each interview the respondent will be debriefed, meaning that the person is offered an opportunity to reflect upon the interview itself and ask further questions about the research itself. Both are done to make the respondent more comfortable and remove anxieties about being interviewed (Kvale, Doing Interviews, 2007).

Each type of interview will follow the same scripts, one for the expert interviews and one for the player interviews. Kvale (2007) points out that the guides for semi-structured interviews should include a mix of themes and topics to be covered in the interview and of specifically worded questions, but leaves it to each research to determine how strict to follow the guide. This research will adhere strictly to the questions posed, but will allow time for the respondent to talk more broadly on the themes and topics that are intended to be covered, and for the interviewer to follow up on new directions emerging from the interview.

When designing the interview questions, Kvale (2007) suggests that the questions should be evaluated on a thematic and dynamic dimension. The thematic dimension is concerned with "the 'what' of an interview, to the theoretical conceptions of the research topic, and to the subsequent analysis of the interview (Kvale, Doing Interviews, 2007, p. 57)”. The dynamic dimension refers to: "the 'how' of an interview; they should promote a positive interaction, keep the flow of the conversation going, and stimulate the subjects to talk about their experiences and feelings. The questions should be easy to understand, short, and devoid of academic language” (Kvale, Doing Interviews, 2007). When creating the research guides, careful attention has been paid to ensure that both these dimensions are considered and applied in order to stimulate conversation and to produce knowledge of high quality, which is relevant to the research. The questions prepared in advance are primarily what Kvale (2007) calls 'Introductory questions', as they are very open-ended and place the subjective experience of the respondent at the center of the investigation. These are supported by direct questions intended to be asked later in the interview to ensure knowledge of specific experiences. All of these are open to be followed by clarifying and interpreting follow-up questions in order to ensure, that the interviewer's understanding of the respondent's experience is in alignment with that of the respondent. The interview guides will include suggestions for these follow-up questions to help guide the interview in the direction of the purpose of the research, but the individual interview will determine if and how many of them are directly used.

2.3.4 Transcribing

The transcriptions of all interviews are not available due to privacy concerns. As noted by Kvale (2007), something is lost in transcription, as it translates oral communication into written. Given that the transcripts of the interviews are not intended as the end-product, but as a tool for the later analysis, they will be done verbatim to reflect exactly what was said during the interview. This method for transcription is commonly used for qualitative, exploratory research (Halcomb & Davidson, 2006), making it a suitable choice for this research. Kvale (2007) notes that re-listening to the recording of the interview after the initial transcription can reveal errors, and as such, multiple listenings and repetitions of the transcription process will be performed in order to ensure accuracy.

2.3.5 Analyzing

The mode of analysis chosen for the interviews is meaning condensation. This is a method with five steps: 1) A reading of the complete interview, 2) Text is broken into units of meaning, 3) The theme which dominates each unit is stated in a simple manner, 4) Evaluating each meaning unit in terms of the purpose of the study, 5) The essential themes of the study are written together in a descriptive statement. The American psychologist Amedeo Giorgi developed the method in the early 1970s (Kvale, Doing Interviews, 2007) and this method offers "a process of intersubjectivity, reflexivity, and feasibility, while maintaining a responsible level of methodological rigour” (Malterud, 2012, s. 796). Similarly, the idea of breaking down the interview into parts and uncovering recurring themes, which can be categorised and compared is also suggested other researchers (Sapsford & Jupp, 1996); (Gibbs, 2007). Kvale (2007) also notes how this analysis method requires a rich and nuanced description from the respondent and this suits the type of questions being asked well. After these five steps, the themes will be the centre of further theoretical analysis, taking departure in the theories presented later in the thesis as well as the complete set of data.

2.3.6 Verifying

Reliability and validity are core criteria when it comes to establishing and assessing the quality of research, and while there are established ways of doing so in quantitative research, this is more difficult when the research is qualitative. Kvale (2007) acknowledges this issue, and while he explains how reliability and validity could be understood in qualitative research, this thesis will instead use the alternative criteria for evaluating the trustworthiness of qualitative research suggested by Lincoln and Guba in Bryman and Bell (2011).

First of all they suggest credibility as an alternative to internal validity (the match between the researchers' observations and the theoretical ideas they develop). In order to achieve this, it is suggested that each respondent is given the findings to verify that the portrayal of their world-view is accurate, a technique called respondent validation. If the respondent confirms the findings, they can be deemed more credible: "If there can be several possible accounts of an aspect of social reality, it is the feasibility or credibility of the account that the researcher arrives at that is going to determine its acceptability to others" (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p. 396).

Secondly, transferability replaces external validity (whether findings can be generalized). This means that what the researcher cannot achieve in breadth, she or he must do so in depth. "As qualitative research typically entails the intensive study of a small group, or of individuals sharing certain characteristics (...), qualitative findings tend to be oriented to the contextual uniqueness and significance of the aspect of the social world being studied" (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p. 398). The benefit of qualitative research over quantitative research is the ability to uncover a high level of details, and Lincoln and Guba argue that an emphasis on this can replace external validity.

Thirdly, dependability parallels reliability (whether a study can be replicated), which is achieved by keeping a complete record of phases of the research process available, should anyone want to challenge the findings. It is recommended to have an auditor that can evaluate if proper procedures have been followed. However "it is very demanding for the auditors, bearing in mind that qualitative research frequently generates extremely large datasets" (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p. 398).

Finally, confirmability is used in the place of objectivity (the lack of influence of the researcher on the subject). This means: "while recognizing that complete objectivity is impossible in business research, the researcher can be shown to have acted in good faith; in other words, it should be apparent that he or she has not overtly allowed personal values or theoretical inclinations manifestly to sway the conduct of the research and findings deriving from it" (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p. 398). Justification of choice Achieving credibility

In qualitative research, validity is concerned with how much the observations actually reflect what is being investigated (Kvale, Interviews, an introduction to qualitative research interviewing, 1996). To evaluate this, it becomes a philosophical question of what truth is. From a positivist perspective there is an objective truth and the ideal is to have a one-to-one correspondence between the truth and the findings. From constructivist perspective there is not a belief that an objective truth exists and such there is a different understanding of validity. Rather than attaining certain knowledge, validity becomes a matter making a defensible knowledge claim, and this is supported by respondentvalidation. Achieving transferability

The choice of a semi-structured interview method rather than an unstructured, which are more frequently used in exploratory research, is done to ensure transferability of the data. The main benefit of a non-standardized structure is the ability to explore a complex issue; the downside is however that those findings are difficult to replicate (Saunders, Thornhill, & Lewis, 2009). Thus a semi-structured interview structure, meaning that all players have faced similar interviews, means their responses are more comparable.

Due to the limited scope of the findings in qualitative studies, it is often argued that making any generalizations from the results is hardly possible (Bryman & Bell, 2011). In order make up for the small sample, both Bryman and Bell (2011) and Kvale (1996) argue that the generalizability of qualitative data rests on the quality of the data. "The validity of the generalization hinges on the extent to which the attribute compared are relevant, which again rests upon rich, dense, thick descriptions of the case" (Kvale, 1996, p. 223). Another way to measuring the quality is the ability to link it to existing theory in a theoretically sounds manner. "The findings of qualitative research are to generalize to theory rather than to populations (...) it is the quality of the theoretical inferences that are made out of qualitative data that is crucial to the assessment of generalization" (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p. 409). Achievingdependability

Reliability relates to consistency in the research. Things that can have a negative impact are unintended leading questions, as well as the fact that different wordings of the same question can result in different answers (Kvale, Interviews, an introduction to qualitative research interviewing, 1996). To alleviate this, particular attention has been paid to avoid unintended leading questions, as well as the decision to make the interviews semi-structured, meaning that the consistency between what the interviewees are asked is strong. Achieving confirmability

In this thesis this will be done by firmly justifying any choice, where a bias could exist in order to show good faith.

2.3.7 Reporting

Quotes are inherently fragments of a greater conversation, as suggested by both Kvale (2007) and Bryman and Bell (2011). When quotes are used in this thesis, an effort will be made to present the context in which the quotes were made. This does not just give the reader a greater understanding, but also adds credibility to the findings. Contextualizing is especially central given that the interviews are conducted in Danish, and the quotes that are presented are translations made by this author. While correctness in the translations is strived for, some elements may be lost in translation, making contextualization even more important. Respondents' identity will not be revealed when presenting the information gathered.

2.4 Delimitation

This thesis researches the attitudes and motivations of a specific type of employee in a specific industry and specific country. Consequently the findings are not intended to be able to make conclusions about other types of employees in other industries or countries, but should however be able to inspire similar and further research in either this or similar fields.

3 Theoretical direction

In order to answer the research question and to set up a theoretical framework of analysis, it is necessary to investigate existing theory related to the research question. Based on the research question and the understanding of it outlined in section 2.3.1, three central concepts have been identified, which will be used as the framework for analysing the findings: Employee identity, employer attraction, and employee retention. In the following chapter, theories related to these concepts will be presented in order to be used in the discussion.

3.1 Employee identity

Classical theories on employee motivation are mostly based in the industrial society and, while they may still be able to explain modern working society, Hein (2009) points out that in the knowledge society there is a new type of worker: The highly specialized creative employee. What defines this type of worker is that the job requires academic knowledge or many years of training in the field, and that an employee without similar knowledge or training cannot substitute it. Furthermore, the work done by this type of employee is defined as the ability to think creatively and adapt to challenges and obstacles 'on the spot' due the training they have had. The author goes on to list different types of jobs that fit this description, including elite athletes.

Figure 1 shows the four archetypes for highly specialized creative employees. The archetypes are placed on scale of willingness to make sacrifices. This is to be understood as the amount of mental energy allocated to the job, as well as the willingness to fight for what you believe in at your job. It should be noted that the model describes the inner motivations of employees, so while a person might have the motivational profile of a primadonna, he or she might still act as a pragmatist. This shows a dynamism within the archetypes, but the author also notes how it can create frustration for the employee, if they feel the need to act in opposition to their motivational profile (Hein H., 2009).

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Figure 2: The four archetypes for highly specialized creative employees. Personal translation based on (Hein H., 2009, p. 197)

The Primadonna is led by a calling to make a difference for someone or something, which entails dedication and a sense of obligation to always do one's best, along with a drive to seek meaning. The primadonna will seek a meaningful job and in order to achieve this, will engage him or her fully into it. While not necessarily a workaholic, the job is very important to the primadonna, being a source of both joy of life, job satisfaction, identity and meaning of life. Consequently, professional and personal values will merge, and the philosophy of the primadonna is to live through the job, rather than just work to live. Three existential motivational factors drive the primadonna. 1) The Kick. It is associated with the search for meaning and occurs, when a special connection is made with the people they serve and creates a strong sense of happiness. Just the memory of the episode can bring a high level of motivation. 2) Flow. The feeling when you are absorbed in solving a difficult task to the extent that you lose sense of time and space. The primadonna rarely experiences the feeling of flow outside of work and thus needs to work to experience the feeling, which motivates them. 3) Identity. When professional and personal values blend together, the job becomes a strong source of identification for the primadonna, who thrives when he or she has a strong identity. For primadonnas, it is important to be able to identify with the values and identity of the organisation (Hein H. H., 2009).

The Performance Tripper is, just like the primadonna, very much committed to his/her job. But while the primadonna's identity is created by making a difference for someone or something else, the performance tripper is working for him/herself and identity comes from being the best. The performance tripper can be seperated into an extrovert and an introvert. The extrovert is driven by wanting to perform, be the best, and, most importantly, to be recognized as such. If others do not recognize the performance, it will not be considered as a success. The kick that comes from recognition of performance is an essentianal part of the performance tripper's construction of an identity as being one of the best. The introvert performance tripper places little value in the opinion on others. For him/her, performance is rewarding when challenges are overcome and problems are solved personally - it is a success, not because what it means to others, but because he or she did it - it is this experience that is meant by "mountain climber " (Figure 2). For them, this work process is what creates a sense of flow, where they are complety focused on one task, and the kick comes from the ability to solve a difficult problem. The introvert performance tripper performs best when they are allowed autonomy and control over their own work (Hein H. H., 2009).

The Pragmatic cares about his/her job and wants to do a job that lives up to expecations, but more significantly there must be a balance between work and private life. Without time and energy for life outside of the work place the pragmatic will be stressed and will not perform. The pragmatic is in some ways similar to the primadonna, as the pragmatic usually also likes the idea of working for higher cause and will likely share the professional values of the primadonna. The main difference is that, as the name reveals, they are far more likely to compromise with professional standards. The pragmatic is also motivated by flow and kick, similarly to the primadonna, but because the strength of these experiences are related to the engagement and investment in the job - something the pragmatic is not as likely to do - these experiences will not be as strong as for the primadonna. Just as the primadonna, the pragmatic desires a sense of identity, but for him/her, the identity is created through social relations in the work place rather than the values of the organisation. The pragmatic also cares a lot about experienced equity, and more so than for the primadonna and the performance tripper, it is important for the pragmatic that other people are not given a bigger reward for a similar level of effort (Hein H. H., 2009).

Finally, the Wage Earner is focused on maximizing pay, while minimizing effort. The wage earner will often be the person that knows the rules and contracts in detail in order to point out, why a certain task should not be done or why a break needs to be held at a certain time. Just like the pragmatic, the wage earner cares deeply about equity, and an experience of being under­rewarded is highly demotivational. While compliments and recognition does motivate the wage earner in part, the overshadowing motivational factor is earnings, but an employer will rarely see an effort from a wage earner surpassing what is explicitly agreed upon (Hein H. H., 2009).

Another way of considering employees is according to the level and primary focus of their engagement in relation to employment. Barrow and Mosley (2005) present the results of a survey which identifies four types of employees: The ambassador (41 %), who is fully committed to the company and to their career, and whose commitment is driven by the ability to succeed and help the company succeed, and having strong confidence in the leadership. The career oriented (20 %) are people who place their career over the current job. Their commitment is driven by the opportunity to work with their key skills every day and to have an understanding of how their performances are judged. The company oriented (8 %) are employees, for whom the commitment to the company surpasses that of their own career. Their commitment is driven by the work place being fun and that there is sense of fairness in how employees are treated. Finally, the ambivalent (31 %) are employees who are committed to neither their current job nor their career and tend to be low skilled workers.


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Athlete or employee. A study of professional handball players
Copenhagen Business School
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Henrik H. Lønne (Author), 2014, Athlete or employee. A study of professional handball players, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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