Dynamics of Public Service Motivation: Attraction‒Selection and Socialization in the Production and Regulation of Social Services

Date01 January 2014
Published date01 January 2014
Anne Mette Kjeldsen is assistant
professor in the Department of Political
Science and Government, Aarhus University,
Denmark. Her research interests include
public service motivation in the public and
private sectors, especially in the social
services and health care, and distributed
leadership and employee involvement in
public sector reforms.
E-mail: annemette@ps.au.dk
Dynamics of Public Service Motivation: Attraction–Selection and Socialization in the Production and Regulation of Social Services 101
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 101–112. © 2013 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12154.
Anne Mette Kjeldsen
Aarhus University, Denmark
e literature on public service motivation (PSM) has
typically focused on the relationship between motiva-
tion and public/private sector of employment, while the
character of the work being performed has been neglected.
Using panel surveys with pre- and postentry measures of
PSM among certif‌i ed Danish social workers, this article
provides a unique design for investigating PSM-based
attraction‒selection and socialization ef‌f ects with respect
to the choice between work related to service production
or service regulation (controlled for public/private sector
of employment).  e article shows that the PSM prof‌i les
of social work students predict their preference for one
of the two types of work tasks but do not predict f‌i rst
employment in the preferred job. Conversely, postentry
shifts in social workers’ PSM prof‌i les result from a com-
plex interplay between inf‌l uences from both work task
and sector.
The literature on public service motivation
(PSM) has traditionally focused on the rela-
tionship between this type of work motivation
and the sector of employment (Lewis and Frank 2002;
Perry and Wise 1990; Rainey 1982). Drawing on
person‒environment f‌i t theory, it has been argued that
public sector employees have higher levels of PSM
than private sector employees because of an attraction
ef‌f ect: individuals who are oriented toward helping
others and contributing to society believe that this
is most favorably matched by seeking employment
in the institutional environment of public organiza-
tions (Leisink and Steijn 2008; Perry and Wise 1990;
Vandenabeele 2008b). As individual PSM has been
shown to have a positive ef‌f ect on individual and
organizational performance (Bright 2007; Kim 2005;
Naf‌f and Crum 1999; Vandenabeele 2009), employee
retention (Bright 2008; Wright and Christensen
2010), and job satisfaction (Kjeldsen and Andersen
2013; Taylor 2008; Wright and Pandey 2008), this is
possibly a strong point of the public sector in times of
f‌i scal crisis and an aging workforce.
However, Perry and Hondeghem (2008) empha-
size that PSM is conceptually tied to the delivery of
public services rather than to public or private sector
organizations.  is has been empirically conf‌i rmed
in recent research by Christensen and Wright (2011).
Moreover, most previous studies of the relationships
between PSM and dif‌f erent work environments have
relied on cross-sectional data and research designs
with employed public/private sector personnel, which
does not tell whether individual dif‌f erences in PSM
are a cause or a consequence of choosing a certain
work environment. Person‒environment f‌i t can be
established either by attracting and hiring appropriate
applicants or by inf‌l uencing applicants through organ-
izational socialization once they are employed (Cable
and Parsons 2001; Chatman 1991; Kristof-Brown
1996). To use knowledge about the dynamics of PSM
in the recruitment and retention of highly motivated
employees, we need to know more about the interplay
between the sector and work task using both pre- and
postentry measurements of individuals’ PSM (Perry
and Hondeghem 2008; Wright and Grant 2010).
In order to answer this question, this article relies on
panel data from certif‌i ed Danish social workers who
had the opportunity to undertake work related to
service production and service regulation in both the
public and private sectors and who were interviewed
and surveyed both before and after they accepted their
f‌i rst professional job.  is provides a very strong and
unique design for approaching the dynamics of PSM
in dif‌f erent work settings. More specif‌i cally, the article
examines how an individual’s PSM af‌f ects attraction‒
selection to service-production or service-regulation
work (controlled for public/private employment
sector) and how this work, in turn, has a potentially
socializing ef‌f ect on the individual’s PSM.  e next
section outlines this distinction between service-
production and service-regulation work tasks and its
possible inf‌l uence compared with the sector distinc-
tion.  is is followed by a comprehensive discussion
of the expected PSM-based attraction‒selection and
socialization ef‌f ects concerning the work environ-
ments related to these two types of work.  ird, the
research design, data collection, study measures, and
Dynamics of Public Service Motivation: Attraction‒Selection
and Socialization in the Production and Regulation
of Social Services

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