Idealism, Disillusionment, and Cynicism in Response to Values (In)Congruences in U.K. Nonprofit Organizations: an exploratory study

Zoe Sanderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
116 Downloads (Pure)


I present the findings of an exploratory qualitative enquiry into how employees in UK-based nonprofit organisations with clearly-espoused organisational values experience values (in)congruences. Participants tended to adopt one of three positions - idealism, disillusionment, or cynicism – which they may transition between at different times. I use the theoretical lenses of the ideological psychological contract, organisational identification, and organisational cynicism to interpret these employees’ experiences. These data show how ideological psychological contract and organisational identification processes are entwined as employees fluidly navigate values (in)congruence in nonprofits. This analysis supports a critical reading of organisational cynicism, demonstrating how nonprofit values can be experienced as a form of managerial control, against which employees may wish to defend their self-hood. Several directions for future research are indicated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1169
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number6
Early online date15 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I gratefully acknowledge the support of Dr. Humphrey Bourne, Dr. Victoria Clarke, Gemma Pike, Dr. Paul Redford, and Prof. Irmgard Tischner in developing this paper. I thank the four anonymous reviewers and editors for their constructive comments on previous drafts. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • organizational values
  • ideological psychological contract
  • organizational identification
  • organizational cynicism


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