Psychological Empowerment: Antecedents From Goal Orientation and Consequences in Public Sector Employees

AuthorAna B. Escrig-Tena,Beatriz García-Juan,Vicente Roca-Puig
Published date01 June 2020
Date01 June 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2020, Vol. 40(2) 297 –326
© The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X18814590
Psychological Empowerment:
Antecedents From Goal
Orientation and
Consequences in Public
Sector Employees
Beatriz García-Juan1, Ana B. Escrig-Tena1,
and Vicente Roca-Puig1
Recent research has encouraged the study of psychological empowerment in public
organizations owing to its benefits for optimum service delivery and performance
improvement in the public context. This study analyzes how learning goal orientation,
prove-performance goal orientation, and avoid-performance goal orientation are
related to psychological empowerment and how such empowerment influences well-
being outcomes within the context of public employees. Analyses of data from 553
public-sector employees showed that only learning goal orientation strongly and
positively influences psychological empowerment. Furthermore, the results support
the positive and significant relationship between psychological empowerment and
both job satisfaction and affective commitment and the negative link with job anxiety
levels. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as future directions for the
psychological empowerment issue, are discussed.
psychological empowerment, goal orientation, job satisfaction, job anxiety, affective
commitment, public sector
Public employee management has taken more notice of the role the workforce plays
in improving performance (Feeney & DeHart-Davis, 2009; Nicholson-Crotty,
1Universitat Jaume I, Castellón de la Plana, Spain
Corresponding Author:
Beatriz García-Juan, Department of Business Administration and Marketing, Universitat Jaume I,
Av. De Vicent Sos Baynat, s/n, 12071, Castellón de la Plana, Spain.
814590ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X18814590Review of Public Personnel AdministrationGarcía-Juan et al.
298 Review of Public Personnel Administration 40(2)
Nicholson-Crotty, & Fernandez, 2017), which is the aim of many recent public sec-
tor performance-based reforms (Hall, 2017; Onesti, Angiola, & Bianchi, 2016; Van
Dooren, Bouckaert, & Halligan, 2010) undergirded by the New Public Management
(NPM) approach (Ter Bogt, Van Helden, & Van Der Kolk, 2015). In this context,
employees need to take risks, be more creative and proactive, and find ways to
improve the services they provide and their performance in general (Diefenbach,
2009; Pitts, 2005). Psychological empowerment is an important factor (Brunetto
et al., 2012; Scotti, Harmon, & Behson, 2007) in this environment as it entails a
combination of individuals’ psychological states related to feelings of control at
work (Spreitzer, 1995). As psychological empowerment implies a feeling of aware-
ness of the work context, accountability for personal work output, and overall, a
powerful state of mind (Gautam & Ghimire, 2017; George & Zakkariya, 2014), it
may prove highly beneficial for optimum service delivery and improving perfor-
mance in the public context (Taylor, 2013; Van Loon, 2017).
Although some studies have noted the value of the psychological approach to fur-
ther understanding of how it directly influences public employees’ attitudes (e.g.,
Fernandez, Resh, Moldogaziev, & Oberfield, 2015), it has not been widely considered
in the literature. NPM and performance management literature in general have exam-
ined management practices as a way to increase citizens’ satisfaction and performance,
but have devoted very little attention to employees’ perceptions and experiences
(Steijn, 2004). Numerous questions therefore remain unanswered on the consequences
and antecedents of psychological empowerment, both in public contexts and research
in general (Maynard, Gilson, & Mathieu, 2012). It is particularly important to under-
stand which factors foster employees’ feelings of empowerment and their conse-
quences in greater depth (Macsinga, Sulea, Sârbescu, Fischmann, & Dumitru, 2015;
Seibert, Wang, & Courtright, 2011).
With regard to antecedents, individual dispositions and orientations—such as
goal orientation (GO; e.g., Dweck, 1986)—may affect feelings of psychological
empowerment, although as Maynard et al. (2012) highlight, they have rarely been
addressed. GO in the demanding public sector context is important to examine,
because it increases the motivational force that could condition how employees
strive to meet targets in goal-setting contexts such as NPM and performance-based
reforms (Taylor, 2013). Employees’ GO might shape their psychological empower-
ment because it helps to explain their motivations to succeed or to avoid failure,
their work behaviors, interests, interpretations, and receptiveness to professional
development activities (Barrick, Mount, & Li, 2013; Joo, Park, & Lim, 2016;
VandeWalle, 1997). Hence, as a motivational factor, GO may condition the feeling
of control employees perceive they have over their work; that is, their psychologi-
cal empowerment.
As for the consequences, within the context of NPM and more recent performance-
based reforms, employees’ satisfaction and commitment have been shown to achieve
success in public organizations (Gomes, Mendes, & Carvalho, 2017; Hansen & Høst,
2012; Park & Rainey, 2007; Perry, 2004), and the way psychological empowerment
can foster this satisfaction and commitment calls for further analysis. Moreover,

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