Performance-Based Human Resource Management and Federal Employee’s Motivation: Moderating Roles of Goal-Clarifying Intervention, Appraisal Fairness, and Feedback Satisfaction

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2019, Vol. 39(3) 323 –348
© The Author(s) 2017
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X17721300
Performance-Based Human
Resource Management
and Federal Employee’s
Motivation: Moderating
Roles of Goal-Clarifying
Intervention, Appraisal
Fairness, and Feedback
Hyung-Woo Lee1
Although performance-based human resource management (PHRM) is commonly
accepted as a norm in public organizations, many have questioned its motivational
effect. Scholars have claimed that the effectiveness of PHRM depends on a
number of contingencies and that managers need to consider these contingencies
when implementing it. However, little research has provided empirical evidence
for such assertions. In this context, this study examines how the qualities of the
implementation process moderate the effect of PHRM on intrinsic motivation
and work effort. Analyzing the data from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint
Survey (FEVS), this study found that the motivational effect was greater for those
who perceive performance appraisal as fair and are satisfied with post-assessment
feedback. It was somewhat counterintuitive to find that the motivational effect was
lessened when managers take active roles to communicate the goals and priorities
of the organization and constantly review their employees’ progress toward meeting
those goals. These results provide the workable leverages for enhancing employee
motivation through PHRM. In addition, the main effect of PHRM on work effort was
found to be negatively significant, while its effect on intrinsic motivation was positively
significant. These unexpected findings account for the multifaceted effects of PHRM.
1Hannam University, Daejeon, Republic of Korea
Corresponding Author:
Hyung-Woo Lee, Hannam University, 70 Hannam-ro, Daeduk-gu, Daejeon 34430, Republic of Korea.
721300ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X17721300Review of Public Personnel AdministrationLee
324 Review of Public Personnel Administration 39(3)
performance management, appraisal, goal clarity, feedback, intrinsic motivation
As the principles of “reinventing government (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992)” became the
ethos of public service, the concept of performance has become a centerpiece for both
scholars and practitioners of public administration. Accordingly, human resource man-
agement decisions—such as pay raise, promotion, awards, and so on—in today’s pub-
lic organizations tend to depend on how well employees perform their tasks.
Admittedly, the imperative that the decisions regarding hiring and promotion in public
organizations should be made based on the candidates’ ability and competence is not
new and has been the norm for more than a century since the Pendleton Act of 1883.
However, this New Public Management movement is distinctive, in that it puts greater
emphasis on the use of concrete indicators in regard to the “output” of public employ-
ees than subjective judgments on their attitudes and/or competences. Indeed, as
Moynihan and Pandey (2010) put it, the recent performance-oriented reform
“displace[d] the traditional modes of decision making and heuristics” (p. 4). This trend
toward performance-based human resource management (hereafter referred to as
PHRM) is pervasive throughout the world. According to Perry, Engbers, and Jun
(2009), one third of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) nations, including the United States, currently implement PHRM policies.
However, the criticism against it has long persisted as well, mainly with regard to
performance pay in particular (see Perry et al., 2009, for a review). Dissenters of the
policies often criticized that it has not increased worker motivation or performance.
Some have even declared that performance pay is a “failure” (Bowman, 2010). One of
the most frequently cited reasons for the failure is the mismatch between the unique
need priority of public employees (i.e., mostly intrinsically motivated) and the focus
of PHRM on the use of extrinsic rewards (e.g., Langbein, 2010; Weibel, Rost, &
Osterloh, 2010). In this vein, Perry et al. (2009) proposed that public managers shift
their managerial focus from performance management to promoting public service
motivation (PSM). They stated, “Don’t despair. PSM theory and self-determination
theory may be more applicable levers for improving performance in public agencies
than approaches applying expectancy and reinforcement theory” (p. 46).
Possibly guided by this line of thought, scholars have paid relatively less attention
to strengthening the motivational effectiveness of the current PHRM policies.
However, the value of research on this topic cannot be discounted for the following
reasons: First, the extent to which public employees are motivated by intrinsic factors
(i.e., PSM) varies by individuals. It is therefore unrealistic to assume that all public
employees are intrinsically motivated. Even if we assumed it to be so, it is premature
to conclude that the intrinsic motivation of public employees with a strong PSM will
be hampered by provisions of extrinsic rewards because the argument for the crowd-
ing-out effect (Frey & Jegen, 2001) has not been unequivocally supported by

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