- The double-edged sword: public service motivation, the oath of office and the backlash of an instrumental approach
- Public Management Review
- Volume | Issue number
- 13 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
The motivation of civil servants to serve the public has gained considerable attention among public administration scholars and practitioners. The obvious substantive interpretation of serving the general interest is at odds with public service motivation being predominantly applied instrumentally, as a means to attain employee and organizational performance. There is a comparable situation with the oath of office, which can be regarded as a highly symbolic indicator for civil service motivation as such. The oath of office is regarded predominantly as an integrity tool, at the expense of its embedded substantive meanings. We will argue that in both cases there is a risk for a blind spot for adverse effects, that is, unwanted outcomes and the annihilation of exactly the social significance of the phenomenon in question. The lesson is that public service motivation has to be analyzed from a more encompassing perspective, acknowledging the interlocking of instrumental usage and substantive meaning. In organizational practice public service motivation (and the oath of office) should be used with care in order to warrant successful and meaningful deployment.
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