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The public service ethic

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posted on 2023-08-04, 14:49 authored by Philip Edwin Crewson

Practical and theoretical approaches employed by the public administration community to understand and improve civil service performance have failed to adequately address the utility of exploiting nonmonetary motivations. Reformers too often view civil servants as self-interested rational utility maximizers motivated primarily, if not solely, by the need for economic rewards in the form of pay, job security, promotions, and benefit packages. This study attempts to balance this bias by exploring extra-rational interests in the form of helping others and accomplishing something worthwhile for society. These interests define the public service ethic. The premise of this inquiry is that a strong public service ethic is not only a valuable and underappreciated resource, it is a necessary condition for good government. The theoretical rationale for a public service ethic is based on organizational theory, principal-agent models, and political control. This study uses data from Federal Employee Attitude Surveys, General Social Surveys, and a survey conducted for the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers to estimate, evaluate, and compare public and private sector employee reward orientations. Bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques estimate differences between sectors, control for the impact of individual characteristics on reward orientations, and provide insight into the effects of incongruence between individual and agency reward orientations on job commitment and work effort. The empirical evidence supports the conclusion that public sector employees place greater value in service interests than private sector employees, with individual characteristics such as pay, administrative position, and professional status having a positive effect on service orientations. In the public sector, economic oriented employees are less committed to the organization and more likely to limit individual work effort. The practical implication of these results is that the match between individual reward expectations and those shared by agency peers has a significant and positive impact on job commitment and work effort. This study concludes that the public sector workforce is not representative of the general public when approached from the perspective of reward preferences. The practical implication of this conclusion is that a public service ethic is an important consideration in recruiting, retaining, and motivating public employees.







Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 56-10, Section: A, page: 4141.; Advisors: Laura I. Langbein.; Ph.D. American University 1995.; English


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