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Public administration -- Research, Organizational effectiveness


Employee motivation has always been a matter of concern for both public and private sector organizations. Since the industrial revolution in the late 18th century, organizations have struggled to foster workforce motivation and morale to enhance productivity. While a plethora of literature focuses on private sector motivation research, public sector organizations receive only modest scholarly attention. However, a new concept has emerged in public management literature during the late 1980s and 1990s, later known as public service motivation (PSM). The debate about PSM is premised on the notion that the motivation of public sector employees is quite different from their private sector counterparts because of their orientation to public service. Perry and Wise (1990) expressed this concept in the theory of PSM. Subsequently, a growing stream of scholarship has emerged which explores the many aspects of antecedents and outcomes related to PSM. However, questions remain about how to best keep the motivation of public sector employees sustainably high, and about what factors embolden or enervate the motivation and morale of public sector employees. This study focuses on the sustainable work motivation of local government employees. Its arguments and discussions draw from PSM theory, total quality management (TQM) principles, and inspiration from Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This study examines and attempts to uncover the career trajectories of local government employees in the State of Oregon, United States, through a rigorous grounded theory method (GTM) of inquiry. The study reveals a number of factors that facilitate and/or inhibit employees’ PSM. We expect the findings to be useful for both practitioners and government human resource policymakers in understanding the subtlety and vicissitudes of public sector employee careers and motivations.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).



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