Motivation for public service : perspective of self-determination theory (SDT)
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This thesis consists of three self-contained essays on motivational studies. In the first essay, I review and reflect on the existing literature that addresses the motivation for public service, and then debate the definitions of public service motivation (PSM) with relative concepts such as prosocial motivation, altruism, values, beliefs, attitudes, etc. Public service motivation (PSM), “the motivation to serve the public,” is a form of prosocial motivation. It was proposed in 1990 as a major research theme in public administration within the scope of altruism. PSM refers to people’s commitment to public interest, compassion, and interest in policy making. However, this is misleading as prosocial motivation is never purely altruistic in nature. For example, many high ranking public officials make public policies simply due to media pressure or public scrutiny. Therefore, I use the motivational typology in the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to debate the multi-dimension of motivation for public service. Based on SDT, a new construct, the motivation for public service (MPS), is proposed to analyze public employees’ motivations. Our new SDT-based approach shows that there cannot be a universal measurement tool for motivations. Scholars need to first identify a given public service behavior, and then develop measures for intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, introjected regulation, and external regulation for this behavior. The second essay investigates the motivational factors that drive people to seek public sector jobs. Grounded in semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire, this study systematically investigates people’s motivation for job selection (MJS) in the government, through the lens of the Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Qualitative analysis shows that individuals’ MJS in public sector contain both altruistic motives and non-altruistic motives. The factor analysis supports that MJS falls into the five motivation categories by SDT: internal motivation, identified motivation, instrumental motivation, introjected motivation and external motivation. Based on this, a measurement scale for MJS was proposed. The findings have the potential for future knowledge development and practical implications. In the third essay, I examine street-level public employees’ motivations for a public service career (MPS). Both interview and questionnaire are employed to test hypotheses. I obtain the following findings: First, employees stay in the public sector due to multiple reasons. In general, the reasons fall into five categories, as suggested in self-determination theory (SDT): intrinsic motivation (e.g. loving to serve people), identified regulation (e.g. valuing contribution to the society), instrumental regulation (e.g. easier to get married), introjected regulation (e.g. parents expecting me to stay), and external regulation (e.g., lacking opportunity or earning benefits). This finding shows that some employees voluntarily stay whereas some are compelled to stay. Second, those whose stay is voluntary, as expected, exhibit more positive work attitudes. By contrast, those who stay due to external pressure exhibit less positive work attitudes. Finally, in determining whether employees’ stay is voluntary or compelled, perceived current working condition plays a crucial role. In cases where employees didn’t demonstrate a strong interest in public service in initial job selection, the perception of high autonomy and high relatedness may in their current organization can even foster their intention of voluntary stay. I provide theoretical and practical suggestions based on these findings.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science::Public administration