The uniqueness of public sector personnel motivation

Table of Content

Lois Recascino Wise categorically asserts in his article, Public personnel motivation: The public service culture, that personnel motivation in public service is unique in that public servants serve public interests and satisfy their human needs of contributing to the good of the public. The cases about Bernadine Healy and William Robertson openly illustrate this thesis. To begin with, Doctor Bernadine Healy, once president of the Red Cross, who is considered by Deborah (2001) to have been lacking the quality of intensity of focus, a tribute highly admired within the Red Cross. Healy was too driven and steely for an organization considered an affair of thee heart. By the same token, according to Deborah (2001), “Dr. Healy was not people-oriented, and the Red Cross is all about people.” Turning our eyes back at her past, Dr. Healy looked more like the Republican senator she once dreamt of becoming that the cardiologist running a humanitarian organization she was: she lacked the desire to fulfill a human need and contribute to public good in line with Wise’s article.

            In like manner, Healy lacked what Wise refers to as normative orientations that impact a sense duty and responsibility to the community and the affective emotions that instill deep belief in importance of particular program to society. This is evident when she suggested that a Red Cross administrator report to the scene of a plane crash and ask God for forgiveness for their absence at the scene, instead of dispatching an equipped team of staff to assist with emergency healthcare, (Deborah, 2001). As if that was not enough, she failed to send chaplains to the Pennsylvanian crash site and coldheartedly influenced the firing of two female staff with 60-year experience in the Disaster Operations Centre (DOC) who only meant well by activating DOC to assist at the emergency scene. Healy’s rational and self-serving motives are not public service motives: this shows how her case demonstrates the uniqueness, and belonging of these motives only to those with an intense interest in public good as Wise puts it.

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            As for William Robertson, his excellent public service at the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Services is defined in part, by his quick advancement through the leadership ranks in military and local government service (Terry & Thomas, 2007). According to Terry (2007), his success and dedication to public service is further revealed by his independent-mindedness in work, his learning objectives without formal university education, and his choices to follow lessons and advice form those surrounding him.

            William’s public service motivation is seen to have stemmed from his general orientation to working with the public, and his belief that people should not be lied to, as honesty was his best policy (Terry, 2007).  Moreover, William had developed a sense of responsibility not only to his military colleagues but also to the organization in his military service. Comparatively, his service in the bureau, like his military service, was also marked by rapid advancement from heavy-duty truck operator to bureau director, and ultimately to election as president of the City of Los Angeles’ General Manager’s Association. These were nothing short of his demonstration of desire to serve the good of all citizens, and his needs for human growth and social contact.

            Equally important is the proof of Wise’s uniqueness of personnel motivation to public service, as found in William’s resourcefulness and interpersonal relationships with his subordinates. His actions, according to Terry (2007), reveal the use of partnership, information and delegation of power to obtain desired outcomes for the city, through responsibility sharing. In the same fashion, William uses multiple strategies to achieve technical efficiency and improve service delivery to the public by using his special relationships with other executives to get more resources for the public good.

Differences in motivational factors between public service and business

I do support the claim that the motivational factors in the public service differ from those in the business sector, the disparities being caused by the employees’ goals and intentions for opting to work in one of the sectors and not the other. While desire to fulfill human needs and contribute to the public good motivate people in public service, monetary rewards almost always motivate employees in the private businesses. These motives are dominant in public sector because the government focuses on public service, because it is in the interest of public sector organizations to promote and cultivate these values and motives, and because the public sector is larger than the non-profit sector.

            While great desire to fulfill a public service induces the decision to pursue public administration as a field of study, personal ambitions and dreams drive an individual to take a career in the business sector. One person will join an organization that provides opportunities to fulfill public needs, while another will take on a career that gives them prestige, recognition, and financial success.

            On one hand, normative orientations based on social values and norms of what is proper and appropriate stimulate a desire to serve the public interest through a sense of duty and responsibility to the community, and a unique sense of loyalty to the government. On the other hand, desire to work in the business sector is stimulated partly by the personal desire to excel careerwise and partly by the personal interest in the financial gains that come with it. Conversely, affective motives are rooted in an individual’s emotions and belief in the importance of a particular program to society while motivational factors in business do not depend on emotions or beliefs.


            My conviction, after this discussion, is that motivation and demoralization of civil servants does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, both organizations and societies are responsible for enhancing or reducing the prevalence of public service motivation, which in turn affects the performance of acts that serve the public good and represent the public interest. All things considered, I believe that all subordinate staff and administrators in public service agencies should pursue the interests of their agency and of the people those agencies serve. Therefore, the government should educate the citizenry, promote proper values in organizations, and engage employees in the administration of organizations. This is due to my solid conviction that educated and empowered citizens with proper values and dispositions are not only empowered partners in governance but also active participants in delivery of excellent service to the public.


Deborah S. (2001). Who brought Bernadine Healy down? The Red Cross: A disaster without any heroes.

Lois R. W. Public personnel motivation: The public service culture.

Terry L. C., (2007).William Robertson: Exemplar of politics and public management rightly understood.


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The uniqueness of public sector personnel motivation. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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