A growing body of literature points to the importance of public service motivation (PSM) for the performance of public organizations. The purpose of this paper is to assess the method predominantly used for studying this linkage by comparing the findings it yields without and with a correction suggested by Brewer (2006), which removes the common-method bias arising from employee-specific response tendencies.
First, the authors conduct a systematic review of published empirical research on the effects of PSM on performance and show that all studies found have been conducted at the individual level. Performance indicators in all but three studies were obtained by surveying the same employees who were also asked about their PSM. Second, the authors conduct an empirical analysis. Using survey data from 240 organizational units within the Swiss federal government, the paper compares results from an individual-level analysis (comparable to existing research) to two analyses where the data are aggregated to the organizational level, one without and one with the correction for common-method bias suggested by Brewer (2006).
Looking at the Attraction to Policy-Making dimension of PSM, there is an interesting contrast: While this variable is positively correlated with performance in both the individual-level analysis and the aggregated data analysis without the correction for common-method bias, it is not statistically associated with performance in the aggregated data analysis with the correction.
The analysis is the first to assess the robustness of the performance-PSM linkage to a correction for common-method bias. The findings place the validity of at least one part of the individual-level linkage between PSM and performance into question.
©Nicolai Petrovsky and Adrian Ritz.
Author order is alphabetical: both make an equal contribution to the paper. The authors would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Personnel of the Swiss Federal Administration for supporting this paper as well as for their help with the data collection. The authors would also like to thank David Warren for sharing his database of studies and Jackie Arinaitwe and Jue Young Mok for helpful research assistance.
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