P40 SIG Public Service Motivation

Corresponding and Review chair

Carina Schott, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. c.schott@uu.nl


Gene Brewer, The University of Georgia, United States 

Adrian Ritz, University of Bern, Switzerland 

Wouter Vandenabeele, Utrecht University, The Netherlands


Public service motivation refers to an individual’s desire to help others, improve the well-being of society, and work towards the common good and public interest. Such motives are not the exclusive province of public sector employees; rather, they are exhibited by many other individuals including politicians, volunteers, nonprofit and private sector employees, government contractors, and private citizens, all of whom may perform meaningful public service during their lifetimes. In a context of turbulent times, crises, hybrid working arrangements, and stormy politics, the role public service motives play in various collaborative settings between individuals such as politicians and administrators, or between collaborating public and private organizations, is of particular relevance. We are looking for empirical and theoretical research papers addressing questions such as:

  • How do value conflicts and tensions between politics, administration, and civil society affect public employees’ motivation and work-related outcomes?
  • How does the phenomenon of public service motivation as a traditionally strong pillar of bureaucrats’ identity change under specific circumstances, such as in turbulent times and hybrid working contexts?
  • Do crises in society, politics, and administration diminish public service values taken for granted so far?
  • What role does public service motivation play in times of crisis management and (public) crisis leadership?

Not with standing a great deal of available research, the question of what motivates people to do their job and to perform well remains a ‘big question’ in public management research. This is particularly true in times of new forms of hybrid working arrangements that can be found across many public sector jobs. This panel contributes to the field of public management by bringing together research that studies the topic of employee motivation from a micro, meso and macro perspective.

We welcome papers using theoretical frameworks from public management, psychology and political science. We are looking for both empirical (quantitative and qualitative) and theoretical papers addressing the questions raised above.

Three types of proposals

Despite the recent surge of research on public service motivation, many questions remain unanswered and new ones evolve. Therefore, within the framework of the SIG public service motivation, we invite proposals for two types of papers.

First, regular research papers are invited. We are looking for papers in line with the general theme of public service motivation and motivation in the public sector in its broadest sense. Papers could focus on many related issues within these topics and the paper will be presented through a regular online presentation and be subject to discussion afterwards.

A second type of papers concerns research proposals. We will devote one or more sessions to the peer-review of research proposals, be it before or after submission to funding agencies. This will enable researchers to increase the quality of the proposals and subsequent research, thereby the probability of success. Papers in this strand should at least entail a research question, a theoretical framework and an elaborate research plan.

Third, we invite scholar to submit an idea for a round-table discussion on a specific topic within the field of public service motivation with suggestions for at least three invited discussants and one round-table host.

Special issue

If possible and if the quality allows, we aim to publish a special issue in an academic journal based upon the research papers presented (just as we have done previously – in the International Journal of Public Administration (Brewer, Ritz and Vandenabeele, 2012), Public Administration (Vandenabeele, Brewer and Ritz 2014) and International Public Management Journal (2019).