About Public Service Motivation

The Basics of Public Service Motivation

What is Public Service Motivation (PSM)?​

The theory of PSM refers to the motives driving public servants to engage in behaviours that benefit society and safeguard the public interest.

The Origin of PSM

The origins of the PSM theory are attributed to Perry and Wise (1990), and the theory and associated frameworks have been refined over the past three decades.

What Influences Individuals' PSM Scores

Many individual and organizational characteristics influence PSM. Some commonly researched influencing factors include: gender, age, education, management level, type of work (private vs. public), minority status, and income level.

The Importance of Studying PSM​

PSM levels can influence a myriad of employment outcomes such as job satisfaction, occupation choice , individual performance, organizational commitment, and turnover intention. Roughly 25% of the Canadian workforce is employed in the public sector (Statistics Canada, 2022), making it extremely important to learn more about what motivates the public sector workforce.

Public Service Motives

Rational Motivations

Extrinsic Rewards
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Career opportunities
  • Work arrangements

Intrinsic Rewards
  • Contribution to policy regulation, or programming
  • Feeling of self-importance

Normative Motivations

Extrinsic Rewards
  • Performance recognition
  • Conforming to values (e.g.,mentoring from role model)

Intrinsic Rewards
  • Contribution to public interest
  • Loyalty and duty to the government
  • Doing the right thing

Affective Motivations

  • Recognition in the community or society
  • Moral heroism

  • Conviction or passion about the importance of serving others in the community