Public Service Motivation and Paternalism

Lene Holm Pedersen, Lars Qvistgaard

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    This paper sets out to investigate the association between PSM and paternalism among representatives from a professional organization and trade union which negotiates pay and working conditions for their members, e.g. an organizational setting which is based on membership democracy. Although PSM holds a potential to improve public service provision (Belle, 2013, Andersen et al., 2014), it also has dark sides (Van Loon et al., 2015, forthcoming). The aim of this paper is to analyze and discuss how one type of public service motivated individuals (paternalistic knights) and constitute a problem of democratic accountability. The setting of this discussion is unusual for the PSM literature, and takes PSM into the analysis and discussion of motivation and paternalism in trade unions. This setting is relevant and interesting as the election of representatives is based on elections, and hence trade unions are democratic organizations, but they are also organizations which frequently are critiqued for paternalism. More specifically the research question is how the motivation of the elected representatives is associated to their paternalistic orientation in negotiations on performance pay? The central independent variables are two dimensions of the PSM construct; namely self-sacrifice and commitment to the public interest, whereas the central independent variable is paternalistic orientation. All three variables are measured with survey constructs in a cross sectional survey design. The survey is made among approximately 800 representatives in the trade union for highly professionalized administrative workers in the Danish public and private sector (DJØF). Thus, the contribution of the papers is to develop a new measure of paternalism and apply it empirically in to an organizational context which can be seen as a democratic micro-cosmos. The results show that self-sacrifice - which is ‘the footing’ on which the PSM motivation rests - is indeed positively associated to paternalism, and this indicates that PSM may be linked to a democratic problem. However, commitment to the public interest is negatively associated to paternalism, which makes sense as the norm based motivation to follow democratic rules should be negatively associated to paternalism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2015
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventThe 19th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2015 - University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
    Duration: 30 Mar 20151 Apr 2015
    Conference number: 19


    ConferenceThe 19th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2015
    LocationUniversity of Birmingham
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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