Does the Public Service Motivation Model Hold in the Caribbean?

AuthorCharlene M. L. Roach,Meghna Sabharwal,Romeo Abraham,Wayne Charles-Soverall
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2022, Vol. 42(3) 514 –536
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X21996042
Does the Public Service
Motivation Model Hold in
the Caribbean?
Charlene M. L. Roach1, Meghna Sabharwal2,
Romeo Abraham2, and Wayne Charles-Soverall3
Researchers in public administration for the past few decades are interested in
exploring how public service motivation (PSM) influences turnover intentions. This
study puts the theory of PSM to test in a different cultural context and explores
the relationship between PSM and leadership on turnover intentions via person-
organization fit (P-O fit) in public sector employees from Trinidad and Tobago and
Barbados. Results of structural equation modeling indicate a significant negative
relationship between senior leadership and turnover intentions, but a positive and
significant relationship between PSM and turnover intentions. The positive effects of
PSM on turnover are different from the Western models of motivation in the public
sector. Results also show a partial mediation of PSM and turnover intentions via P-O
fit. This research highlights the need for studying leadership, motivation, and turnover
by utilizing a cultural and value lens to examine and understand employee behaviors
in public organizations outside of North America.
public service motivation, leadership, turnover intentions, person-organization fit,
International Public Administration
1The University of the West Indies—St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago
2University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, USA
3The University of the West Indies—Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
Corresponding Author:
Meghna Sabharwal, Public and Nonprofit Management, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences,
University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Road, GR 31, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.
996042ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X21996042Review of Public Personnel AdministrationRoach et al.
Roach et al. 515
Significant interest in public service motivation (PSM) research has garnered aca-
demics’ and practitioners’ attention over the last quarter century (Battaglio & Gelec,
2017; Breaugh et al., 2018; Caillier, 2007; Chen & Hsieh, 2015; Leisink & Steijn,
2009; Liu et al., 2015; Mann, 2006; Paarlberg et al., 2008; Perry, 2000; Perry et al.,
2010; Perry & Vandenabelle, 2015; Piatak et al., 2020; Taylor & Westover, 2011;
Vandenabeele, 2008). The proliferation of empirical works in PSM can be accredited
to the classic work by Perry and Wise (1990) who coined this term, using three core
dimensions of normative, rational, and affective motives. Currently, public managers
are interested in learning how PSM impacts challenges faced in human resource man-
agement (HRM). Some challenges include motivation, performance, engagement,
recruitment, retention, cost containment, scarce resources, contracting, and retire-
ment (Lane, 2001; Minto-Coy & Berman, 2016; Osborne & Gaebler, 1992; Roach &
Davis-Cooper, 2012).
Other contemporary scholars have asserted that PSM can be used as a strategic
HRM tool to attract individuals best suited for public sector work, and examine their
rational, affective and normative motivations (Carpenter et al., 2012; Clerkin &
Coggburn, 2012; Perry, 2000; Perry et al., 2010; Perry & Wise, 1990). These scholars
hypothesize that employees with higher levels of PSM have higher levels of job satis-
faction, performance, commitment, and lower turnover intentions compared to those
with lower PSM. If this is true, then, it may be feasible to use PSM as a strategic tool
for all aspects of public HRM functions and activities. However, PSM research is not
consistent across public employees’ work behaviors and attitudes. Some scholars
claim PSM promotes retention in public employment, and higher levels of PSM are
linked with lower turnover (Campbell et al., 2014; Naff & Crum, 1999); yet others
report the opposite (Moynihan & Pandey, 2007a, 2007b).
There is emerging PSM literature generated from non-Western fronts that point to
conflicting findings across different contexts. This controversy reinforces the need to
re-assess results and to challenge what dominates within a Western frontier. Recent
studies introduce the dark side of PSM and suggest that public workers with high PSM
may self-sacrifice themselves for their organizations and society to the extent that it
can undermine their health and well-being (Johns, 2010; Koumenta, 2015; Miraglia &
Johns, 2016; Wright et al., 2017). These studies highlight the negative individual and
organizational outcomes such as voluntary and involuntary absenteeism, lack of com-
mitment and withdrawal, disengagement, frustrations, increasing stress, burnout, and
presenteeism (i.e., employees go to work even when they are ill) affecting employees’
health, wellbeing, and increasing work-family conflicts (Johns, 2010; Koumenta,
2015; Miraglia & Johns, 2016; Wright et al., 2017).
Such areas of controversy and disagreement reinforce the need to examine PSM
in new contexts. More recently, a few scholars have indicated the variability in
PSM’s conceptual definition, operationalization, antecedents, and consequences,
supporting how it varies from its original theoretical premise (Giauque et al., 2011;
Houston, 2011; Kim & Hong, 2013; Vandenabeele, 2008; Vandenabeele & Van de

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