Public Service Motivation Research Program: Key Challenges and Future Prospects
Chapter 19 in: Foundations of Public Administration, Edited by Jos Raadschelders and Richard Stillman, Irvine, CA: Melvin and Leigh, pp. 314-332.
19 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 8, 2017
Public service motivation (PSM) research offers many points of pride for public administration scholarship. Theoretical and empirical research on public service motivation, over the last quarter century, has given voice to and extended the ideal of a public service ethic long championed by public administration scholars and practitioners (Miles 1970; Rainey 1982; Staats 1988). PSM research has also highlighted the incompleteness of self-interest-based models of human motivation and the pressing need to incorporate other-regarding and altruistic motives (Pandey et al. 2008; Perry and Hondeghem 2008). Scholars from economics, organization behavior, human resource management, political science, among others, have turned to public service motivation literature to build and/or augment explanatory models (see Perry and Vandenabeele 2015,693 for an overview). Work on public service motivation has blossomed, attracting scholars from all around the globe. Ritz et al. (2016), in a systematic review of public service motivation literature, point out that both the numbers of peer-reviewed publications and researchers has grown exponentially since the 1990s and estimate that the community of public service motivation scholars now is more than 300 strong. The burgeoning PSM literature is comprised of empirical papers, review papers with differing foci, joimial symposia with overviews of the articles presented, as well as summary statements of the state of art. Our goal in this chapter is to review the extant PSM research program and to propose an action able agenda for future research. We characterize the PSM research program by highlighting its achievements, its dynamics, and key challenges.
Our actionable agenda calls for future research that serves to:
1) clarify public service motivation concepts;
2) prioritize theoretical goals over methodological goals;
3) focus on the job as the appropriate unit to study (instead of the sector, which is a red herring); and
4) improve leaders' understanding of the organizational and social context of PSM.
Keywords: public service motivation, prosocial motivation, altruism, public service ethic, public values, leadership, attraction to public policy, civic duty, commitment to public interest, compassion, self-sacrifice, norm-based motive, affective motive, rational motive
JEL Classification: A13, D23, D73, H80, J48, J58
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation