How Do Intrinsic Motivations, Work‐Related Opportunities, and Well‐Being Shape Bureaucratic Corruptibility?

Date01 July 2019
Published date01 July 2019
552 Public Administration Review July | A ugus t 201 9
Abstract: A large body of research focuses on the institutional factors that shape country-level corruption and the
effectiveness of macro-level anticorruption measures; however, corruption at the individual level remains understudied
and thus poorly understood. This article examines the underlying causes of and mechanisms through which individual
government bureaucrats engage in corruption. The researchers develop a framework that incorporates intrinsic
motivations, work-related opportunities, and work-related well-being to test the ways in which these micro-level
factors shape bureaucrats’ propensity to engage in corrupt behaviors (or corruptibility). Using survey data from more
than 1,300 Chinese public employees, the authors identify direct and indirect effects on corruptibility and discuss
theoretical and practical implications.
Evidence for Practice
Public employees’ need for relatedness and desire for wealth predict corruptibility at the individual level.
Public organizations should consider individuals’ intrinsic motivations during the hiring process.
Higher person-organization fit and lower work stress may reduce corruption. Thus, organizational training
in the public sector should include value sharing and stress management in anticorruption efforts.
This article highlights organizational red tape again because it increases corruption both directly and
Yahong Zhang
Rutgers University–Newark
Ming-feng Kuo
National Taiwan University
Jinyun Guo
Sichuan University, China
Chun-yuan Wang
Central Police University of Taiwan
How Do Intrinsic Motivations, Work-Related Opportunities,
and Well-Being Shape Bureaucratic Corruptibility?
Chun-yuan Wang is associate professor
in the Department of Police Administration
and director of the General Education
Center, Central Police University, Taiwan. His
research interests include crisis management
and public human resource management.
Jinyun Guo is associate professor in the
School of Public Administration, Sichuan
University, China. His research interests
include public performance management,
community governance, and public sector
human resources management. His
current research focuses on public service
motivation and community participation.
Ming-feng Kuo is assistant professor
in the Department of Political Science and
Graduate Institute of Public Affairs, National
Taiwan University, Taiwan. His research
interests include anticorruption studies, local
governance, citizen participation, public
policy analysis, and applied econometrics.
Yahong Zhang is associate professor
in the School of Public Affairs and
Administration at Rutgers University–
Newark and director of the Rutgers Institute
on Anti-Corruption Studies. Her research
interests include anticorruption studies,
politics-administration relationships, citizen
participation, government transparency,
public administration education, and
quantitative research methods.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 552–564. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13034.
Research Article
Public corruption remains a worldwide concern,
with anticorruption becoming a priority in
many governments’ agendas (e.g., Bauhr and
Grimes 2014; Gong and Wu 2012; Peiffer and Alvarez
2016). The effectiveness of anticorruption measures
depends on an in-depth understanding of corruption
antecedents at all levels, from the country to the
organization to the individual. This article examines
individual-level motivations and inducements for
government bureaucrats to engage in corruption. The
researchers develop a framework that incorporates
intrinsic motivations, work-related opportunities, and
work-related well-being to examine the ways in which
these factors directly or indirectly shape bureaucratic
In recent years, corruption has drawn increasing
attention among public administration scholars,
who have focused on four major themes: (1) the
basic conceptual framework of corruption, including
definitions, classifications, and measures (e.g., Bauhr
2017; Cordis and Milyo 2016); (2) determinants of
corruption (e.g., Choi 2007; Kwon 2012; Relly 2012;
Stanig 2015); (3) consequences of corruption (e.g.,
Grönlund and Setälä 2012; Liu, Moldogaziev, and
Mikesell 2017); and (4) institutional anticorruption
measures (e.g., Bauhr and Grimes 2014; Peiffer and
Alvarez 2016).
Meanwhile, a large body of research has focused on
macro-level investigations, with countries as the unit
of analysis (e.g., Bauhr and Grimes 2014; Gong and
Wu 2012; Kwon 2013; Relly 2012). A much smaller
number of studies have examined corruption issues
at the state, provincial, or local government level
(e.g., Meier and Holbrook 1992; Segal 2002; Stanig
2015; Zhang and Kim 2018). These studies have
contributed greatly to the collective understanding
of the institutional causes of corruption and possible
solutions. In particular, evidence-based research
provides direction for anticorruption policies and
Nevertheless, public corruption occurs not only
because of macro-level institutional factors, such as a
lack of government transparency and free markets, but
also because of public employees’ intrinsic motivations
and micro-level contexts. The question of what
motivates individual public employees to misbehave
under certain institutional conditions is equally
important as macro-level inquiries and deserves
systematic examination.

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