The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which public service motivation (PSM) can be explained by the big five personality factors.
Original data are gathered from two online surveys of public service professionals from across the USA. The two surveys employ the same measures of personality traits but different measures of PSM. This was done to test the generalizability of the findings across different operationalization of PSM.
The big five personality factors explain a large share of the variance in PSM, above and beyond basic demographic factors (sex, age and race). Agreeableness has the most consistent association with PSM. Extroversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experience also display positive associations with at least some measures and dimensions of PSM.
The two surveys involved somewhat small, non-probability samples of public service professionals. Additional research is needed to confirm the generalizability of these findings.
This study contributes to both the theoretical and empirical understanding of the origins of PSM.
Hamidullah, M.F., Van Ryzin, G.G. and Li, H. (2016), "The agreeable bureaucrat: personality and PSM", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 582-595. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPSM-12-2015-0218
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