From Bureaucrats to Entrepreneurs to Networkers, Advocates, and Empaths: Reappraising Human Resources Management Ideals and Practices in Public Administration

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorSabina Schnell,Catherine Gerard
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2023, Vol. 43(4) 652 –676
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X221117283
From Bureaucrats to
Entrepreneurs to Networkers,
Advocates, and Empaths:
Reappraising Human
Resources Management
Ideals and Practices in Public
Sabina Schnell1 and Catherine Gerard1
This article assesses how changing paradigms of public administration have been
reflected in public sector human resources management over time. It finds that large-
scale reform acts, such as the Pendleton Act or the Civil Service Reform Act and the
National Performance Review reflected the “ideals” of the rule-following bureaucrat
of the Old Public Administration (OPA) and of the result-seeking entrepreneur of
New Public Management (NPM). However, the advocate, empath, and networker
of New Public Administration (NPA) and New Public Service (NPS) has not been
pursued through similarly encompassing reform efforts. While gradual changes such
as a more representative bureaucracy and increased collaborative governance have
paved the way for a deeper integration of NPA and NPS values into human resource
policy and practice, more efforts are needed to promote advocates, empaths, and
networkers as the core of the “new” public service. We conclude by making some
tentative suggestions in this direction.
public administration, human resources management, new public management, new
public administration, new public service, public values, public sector motivation, civil
service reform
1Syracuse University, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Sabina Schnell, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 400G Eggers Hall,
Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.
1117283ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X221117283Review of Public Personnel AdministrationSchnell and Gerard
Schnell and Gerard 653
While human resources management (HRM) as an area of study is considered by some
a relatively recent sub-field of public administration (Boselie et al., 2021; Brown, 2004),
public administration theory has always been premised on certain assumptions about the
“ideal” public servant. The image of “ideal” public administrators has in turn influenced
large-scale public administration and HRM reforms, as well as organizational-level
HRM practices. This image is important not just because it reflects a normative ideal, but
also because it shapes how people are recruited, rewarded, and promoted in the public
sector, and thus ultimately how the public sector performs and fulfills its duties to citi-
zens. This article aims to contribute both to public administration theory writ large and
to scholarship on public personnel management by unpacking how public administration
theory and HRM policy and practice have conceptualized the “ideal” public administra-
tor and how this conception has changed over time and shaped the public sector work-
force and performance. In doing so, it considers how the changing image of the “ideal”
public servant can inform future HRM developments in the public sector.
The article begins by examining the three “grand” paradigms of public administra-
tion: “Old” Public Administration (OPA), New Public Management (NPM), and New
Public Administration (NPA), as well as newer versions of NPA, such as New Public
Service (NPS). These first three sections focus on the human resource (HR) reforms
associated with each paradigm, as well as the impact of those reforms on the public
sector. In general, both OPA and NPM have been associated with deep reforms in how
public servants are managed. However, NPA ideas have been reflected much less in
HR legislation or large-scale structural reforms. The fourth section outlines how HR
practices, policies, and institutions in the public sector would need to change to bring
the hitherto neglected NPA “HR paradigm” to life. The final section concludes with an
eye to the future, including areas for further research.
“Old” Public Administration
Before the modern era, the monarch was the state. Leadership positions and most
administrative posts were personal sinecures handed out by monarchs to loyalists and
people with resources to shore up power. In the United States (US) context, govern-
ment jobs were political capital to get votes, maintain relationships, and ensure alle-
giance. As classically described by Max Weber, bureaucracy—a form of “modern,”
“rational” social organization based on rules and offices as opposed to personal rela-
tionships (Weber, 1964)—emerged with industrialization in the 19th century, as did
the modern state and the idea of the bureaucrat as its neutral servant.
The main concerns of early PA theorists reflected this context. The much maligned
“politics-administration” dichotomy, which shaped the emergence of public administra-
tion as a field of study in the US, sought to increase the efficiency and stability of public
services by ensuring the bureaucracy was staffed with a stable cadre of politically neutral
experts, qualified for specific jobs, who efficiently carry out the “business” of govern-
ment (O’Toole, 1987; D. Rosenbloom, 2008; Wilson, 1955). The “science” of public

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT