At the front line: examining the effects of perceived job significance, employee commitment, and job involvement on public service motivation

Taehee Kim, Alexander C. Henderson, Tae Ho Eom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Social welfare work has long been identified as a highly stressful occupation, and one in which considerations of motivating employees and encouraging increased responsibility and commitment are central to understanding individual and collective performance. In the face of organizational factors that negatively affect employees’ motivation, including a lack of promotion opportunities, red tape, and expected emotional exhaustion, it becomes much more important for management to motivate employees in such a way that they can provide meaningful and satisfactory services to their clients. Extant research suggests that employees with higher levels of public service motivation (PSM) are motivated to engage in prosocial behaviors that benefit others. Using survey data gathered from social welfare workers in South Korea, this research examines the impact of a number of job-related factors on employee levels of PSM. The results indicate that job significance, professional job involvement, and affective commitment all impact the levels of PSM, suggesting that attention to job characteristics and the dynamic nature of PSM are important in particularly stressful front-line professions. Points for practitioners: Given the organizational constraints on reward programs that exist in public agencies, it becomes increasingly important to consider other job-related factors that may improve motivation – especially related to public goals – among social welfare workers. The findings of this study suggest that increasing opportunities for social welfare workers to directly meet and interact with their service beneficiaries or enabling employees to gain access to citizens’ feedback about their service quality or service impact (e.g. citizen satisfaction survey results), can play a major role in maintaining or improving employees’ level of public service motivation. The results also underline the importance of managers’ giving consideration to fostering employees’ public service motivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-733
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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