This article argues and shows that performance narratives affect how and for what purposes managers use performance information independently of other known drivers of performance information use, such as the external environment and individual intra- and interorganizational characteristics. Using a survey experiment on 514 Danish public school managers, we find an asymmetrical effect of “decline narratives” (declining performance) and “increase narratives” (improving performance). In line with expectations drawing on literature on negativity bias and blame-avoidance, we find that “decline narratives” lead to higher internal use (learning and control purposes) of performance information. In contrast, “increase narratives” lead to higher external use (giving account and building support purposes) of performance information. Further exploratory analysis suggests that internal use is not affected by narratives when managers are skeptical of the performance measure. More skeptical managers are, however, willing to use performance information with an “increase narrative” for external use.
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Published inPublic Administration