Public Service Motivation


Public Administration Review
© American Society for Public Administration
Virtual Issue: Public Service Motivation
The latest articles from Public Administration Review are available in the
Wiley Online Library



Introduction to Virtual Issue: Public Service Motivation
Sanjay K. Pandey, Professor, Rutgers University—Newark, School of Public Affairs & Administration

Ideas matter. They matter for both practice and theory. When ideas drive the development and use of new concepts and measures, they give voice to silent realities and shape new understanding. Over the decades, some of the most enduring and transformative pieces on public service have been penned by scholars and practitioners writing in Public Administration Review (PAR).

Practitioners, some unsung and others highly celebrated, writing in PAR have called attention to the public service ethic and the need for social science knowledge. Nearly a decade after President Eisenhower signed the Government Employees Training Act of 1958, Roger Jones of US Bureau of Budget argued for greater use of social science knowledge in employee training (Jones, 1967). Rufus Miles (1970: 620), who had a long and distinguished career as a public administrator, presented a succinct brief for public service ethic arguing that the best civil servants are attuned to the higher purposes of “government in a democratic society”. Elmer Staats (1988), another notable public sector leader, makes two important points in a wide-ranging essay on the public interest. First, organizations in public and private sector share a mutuality of purpose and need to work together to advance public service goals. Second, and more importantly for present purposes, Staats emphasized the need to move beyond equating individual commitments to public service with the sector of employment.

The often invoked normative appeal to the idea of public service ethic by practitioners motivated empirically-oriented public administration scholars to search for public service motivation (e.g., Crewson, 1997; Houston 2000; Rainey 1982; See Horton 2008 for a historical perspective going back to middle ages; See Pandey and Stazyk 2008 for a perspective going back thirty years). Contemporaneous with such empirical scholarship was the signature work of Perry and Colleagues on conceptualization and measurement that transformed schoarship on public service motivation. Perry and Wise (1990) proposed a typology of public service motives and advanced theoretical propositions that fleshed out the behavioral implications of these motives. A series of other influential articles by Perry (e.g., Perry 1996, 1997, 2000) refined the theory, concepts, and proposed new measures.

The momentum created by the theoretical and empirical developments on public service motivation in the last decade of the twentieth century are visible and positive. There is a vibrant and large scholarly community that spans the globe and to a lesser extent disciplinary boundaries, engaging some of the best minds of our time (e.g., Andersen, 2009; Bright 2005; Coursey, Yang and Pandey 2012; Davis and Stazyk, in press; Grant 2008; Kim 2012; Vandenabeele 2007). Numerous symposia in noted public administration journals have been devoted to public service motivation and a recent book categorizes and captures some of the most promising research streams (Perry and Hondeghem, 2008).

The task of selecting articles to include in a virtual issue is different from symposium and book editors. Symposium/book editors have the excitement of the opportunity to shape content and offer a neatly organized (or as close to it as possible) perspective. Counterbalancing this missed opportunity is the prospect of celebrating some of the best work on public service motivation and agonizing over equally significant work that could not be included. While the agonizing must remain private, celebration can be public. So following this introduction to the virtual issue, I provide a brief introduction to each article included in the virtual issue. My goal in this introduction is to bring out the “cash value” of the article and briefly highlight why the ideas explored in the article matter. If you find the brief introduction unpersuasive, it is a reflection on my failings and not the particular article’s.

These PAR articles, taken together with research published in other journals and books, highlight the incompleteness of self-interest based models of human motivation and give voice to a perspective public administration scholars and practitioners have long advocated. This perspective is articulated fully in the public service motivation scholarship which offers a theory of human motivation that takes into account other-regarding motives and offers evidence for its organizational and social value (Pandey, Wright, and Moynihan 2008). Notwithstanding its relative youth, public service motivation scholarship offers some of the best prospects for developing “ administrative systems that not only reduce prospects for bad behavior, but also increase the likelihood for public service–oriented, prosocial, altruistic behaviors (Perry 2011: S146).”

-Sanjay K. Pandey

Sanjay K. Pandey is a Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark. His scholarship on several key public management themes such as bureaucratic red tape, public service motivation, performance management, and leadership is cited often and has received several awards.


Federalist No. 72: What Happened to the Public Service Ideal?
James L. Perry
Public Administration Review
Volume 71, s143-s147
Sanjay K. Pandey: Perry (2011) revisits Federalist No. 72 to explore how the exchanges at the time of founding of republic have influenced our view of the public service ideal and how things might have turned out somewhat differently with the knowledge we have today. He makes two important points in this regard, “… human nature is more inherently good than the Federalists conceived it and that we can design administrative systems to induce good behavior (S146).”

The Motivational Bases of Public Service
James L. Perry and Lois Recascino Wise
Public Administration Review
Volume 50, no. 3: 367-373.
SKP: Perry and Wise (1990) review and propose a typology of public service motives and develop theoretical propositions that link these motives to behaviors. This has been a transformative and trend-setting contribution that arguably has had the greatest formative influence on the course of public service motivation research since its publication.

Individual Conceptions of Public Service Motivation
Gene A. Brewer, Sally Coleman Selden and Rex L. Facer II
Public Administration Review
Volume 60, no. 3: 254.
SKP: Brewer, Selden, and Facer (2000) use the Q-sort technique to classify public service motives. They identify four different helping orientations: Samaritans defined by service to individuals in need, communitarians who are community activists, patriots who value service to one’s country, and humanitarians working for the broader interests of humanity. Each orientation is unique and consists of a combination of motives. For example, low regard for monetary rewards has long been associated with the desire to perform public service, but only Samaritans and Communitarians report a willingness to continue serving even if their pay were suspended.

Gender Dimensions of Public Service Motivation
Leisha DeHart-Davis, Justin Marlowe and Sanjay K. Pandey
Public Administration Review
Volume 66, no. 6: 873-887.
SKP: DeHart-Davis, Marlowe, and Pandey (2006) are the first scholars to explore the gender dimensions of the public service motivation concept. Drawing on a variety of theories pertaining to gender, they hypothesize that compassion is a culturally feminine PSM dimension, while attraction to policymaking and commitment to public service are culturally masculine dimensions. They find that women indeed report higher compassion, but demonstrate higher (not lower) attraction to policymaking and no significant difference in civic duty. These findings suggest that gendered aspects of public service motivation vary with the institutional context (in this study, state health and human services agencies).

The Role of Organizations in Fostering Public Service Motivation
Donald P. Moynihan and Sanjay K. Pandey
Public Administration Review
Volume 67, no. 1: 40-53.
SKP: Moynihan and Pandey’s (2007) study shines a spotlight on the crucial role of organizations. Early studies of the antecedents of public service motivation emphasized societal and individual antecedents. Moynihan and Pandey (2007) offered a logic to suggest that organizations could nurture or damage public service motivation, stimulating and reinvigorating a large body of research that has since addressed this vitally important question.

Transformational Leadership and Public Service Motivation: Driving Individual and Organizational Performance
Laurie E. Paarlberg and Bob Lavigna
Public Administration Review
Volume 70, no. 5: 710-718.
SKP: Paarlberg and Lavigna (2010) provide a synthesis of transformational leadership with public service motivation theory. Like Moynihan and Pandey (2007), they find the proposition regarding public service motivation as a static trait untenable. They advance an important discussion on how managers can use leadership techniques to create a work environment that supports behaviors consistent with public service values.

Unanswered Questions About Public Service Motivation: Designing Research to Address Key Issues of Emergence and Effects
Bradley E. Wright and Adam M. Grant
Public Administration Review
Volume 70, no. 5: 691-700.
SKP: Wright and Grant (2010) provide an assessment of public service motivation literature to identify gaps in understanding. They draw upon a variety of social science disciplines to offer thoughtful suggestions on how newer studies could be designed to overcome these gaps. Some of these suggestions have already been adopted by other scholars (e.g. Belle 2012).

Revisiting the Motivational Bases of Public Service: Twenty Years of Research and an Agenda for the Future
James L. Perry, Annie Hondeghem and Lois Recascino Wise
Public Administration Review
Volume 70, no. 5: 681-690.
SKP: Perry, Hondeghem and Wise (2010) revisit the propositions they advanced twenty years ago in Perry and Wise (1990). They take stock of the cumulated evidence and offer thoughts about future directions.

Implications of Occupational Locus and Focus for Public Service Motivation: Attitudes Toward Work Motives across Nations
David J. Houston
Public Administration Review
Volume 71, no. 5: 761-771
SKP: Houston (2011) offers a synthesis of self determination theory with public service motivation and examines the influence of occupational locus, occupational focus, and national context in determining work motives. Based on this synthesis, Houston asserts that individuals with public service motivation place a higher value on obligation-based intrinsic motives.

Motivational Bases and Emotional Labor: Assessing the Impact of Public Service Motivation
Chih-Wei Hsieh, Kaifeng Yang and Kai-Jo Fu
Public Administration Review
Volume 72, no. 2: 241–251.
SKP: Hsieh, Yang, and Fu (2012) explore the influence of public service motivation on emotional labor. They find that different dimensions of public service motivation have varying effects on ability of employees to engage in emotional labor.

Experimental Evidence on the Relationship Between Public Service Motivation and Job Performance
Nicola Belle
Public Administration Review
Early View
SKP: Belle (2012) draws upon some of early studies on public service motivation to conduct an experimental study. This study confirms an earlier finding that contact with beneficiaries has a positive effect on public service motives. Also, the study offers some preliminary evidence in support of public service motivation as a “dynamic state”.




Andersen, Lotte B. 2009. What determines the behaviour and performance of health professionals? Public service motivation, professional norms and/or economic incentives. International Review of Administrative Sciences. 75(1): 79-97.

Bright, Leonard. 2005. Public Employees With High Levels of Public Service Motivation Who are They, Where are They, and What Do They Want? Review of Public Personnel Administration. 25(2): 138-154.

Coursey, David H., Kaifeng Yang, and Sanjay K. Pandey. 2012. Public Service Motivation (PSM) and Support for Citizen Participation: A Test of Perry and Vandenabeele’s Reformulation of PSM Theory. Public Administration Review. 72(4): 572-582.

Crewson , Philip E . 1997 . Public-Service Motivation: Building Empirical Evidence of Incidence and Effect. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 7(4): 499-518.

Davis, Randall S. and Edmund C. Stazyk. (in press). Making Ends Meet: How Reinvention Reforms Complement Public Service Motivation. Public Administration: An International Quarterly.

Grant, Adam M. 2008. Employees without a Cause: The Motivational Effects of Prosocial Impact in Public Service. International Public Management Journal 11(1): 48–66.

Horton, Sylvia W. 2008. History and Persistence of an Idea and an Ideal. IN J.L. Perry and A. Hondeghem (eds), Motivation in Public Management: The Call of Public Service. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 17–32.

Houston , David, J . 2000 . Public-Service Motivation: A Multivariate Test . Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(4): 713-727.

Jones, Roger W. 1967. Developments in Government Manpower: A Federal Perspective. Public Administration Review, 27(2): 134-141.

Kim, Sangmook. 2012. Does Person-Organization Fit Matter in the Public -Sector? Testing the Mediating Effect of Person-Organization Fit in the Relationship between Public Service Motivation and Work Attitudes. Public Administration Review, 72(6): 830-840.

Miles Jr., Rufus E. 1970. Non-Subservient Civil Servants. Public Administration Review, 30: 620.

Pandey, Sanjay K. and Edmund C. Stazyk. 2008. Antecedents and Correlates of Public Service Motivation, IN J.L. Perry and A. Hondeghem (eds), Motivation in Public Management: The Call of Public Service. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 101–17.

Pandey, Sanjay K., Bradley E. Wright, and Donald P. Moynihan. 2008. Public Service Motivation and Interpersonal Citizenship Behavior in Public Organizations: Testing a Preliminary Model. International Public Management Journal. 11(1): 89-108.

Perry , James L . 1996 . Measuring Public Service Motivation: An Assessment of Construct Reliability and Validity. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 6(1): 5-22 .

Perry, James L. 1997 . Antecedents of Public Service Motivation . Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 7(2): 181-197.

Perry, James L. 2000 . Bringing Society In: Toward a Theory of Public-Service Motivation . Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(2): 471-488.

Perry, James L. 2011. Federalist No. 72: What Happened to the Public Service Ideal?. Public Administration Review. 71, s143-s147

Perry, James L. and Annie Hondeghem (Editors). 2008. Motivation in Public Management: The Call of Public Service. New York: Oxford University Press

Perry , James L. , and Lois R . Wise . 1990. Motivational Bases of Public Service. Public Administration Review 50(3): 367-373.

Rainey, Hal G. 1982 . Reward Preferences among Public and Private Managers. American Review of Public Administration, 16(4): 288-302.

Staats, Elmer. 1998. Public Service and the Public Interest. Public Administration Review, 48(2): 601-605.

Vandenabeele, Wouter. 2007. Towards a Theory of Public Service Motivation: An Institutional Approach. Public Management Review, 9: 545-556.