On the Shaping of the Spirit of Public Service from the Perspective of Public Service Motivation
Doctor of School of Government, Nanjing University
Deputy Director, Associate Professor of Office of Academic Affairs, Jinling Institute of Technology
Deputy Director, Senior Researcher of Zinjin Media Think Tank
Dean, Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of School of Government, Nanjing University
China is in the new historical stage of developing socialist market economy, and “service is the inevitable choice of government functions”. Public service spirit is the core value concept of a service-oriented government, and the highest spiritual pursuit of the government to engage in social government and services, which provides a fundamental spiritual guide for the existence value of the government and its civil servants.
However, in the transitional period of China’s society, civil servants are generally lack of service awareness, the ethics of public administration is out of order and the efficiency of public service is low. The key to deepen the reform of the administrative management system, improve the capacity of public service and social management, and build a service-oriented government which is satisfactory to the people is to improve the quality and capability of public sector staff and develop the spirit of public service. Therefore, it is very important to reaffirm and further shape the public service spirit of the civil servants and build a high-quality civil service team to enhance the governance ability.
I. The Connotation and Theoretical Basis of Public Service
The public service spirit refers to the idea of being responsible for public affairs, business, and interests in public administration. It is also a spirit that sets the pursuit of public happiness as a goal and provides quality public services to the public through efforts.
In China, although the discussions about the concept of public services and its spirit appeared late in theoretical circles, both of which run through the concrete practices of socialist construction and reform as well as the overall governing practice of the Communist Party of China by conducting the principle of “serving the people”. The socialist core value system and the government service spirit proposed at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixteenth Central Committee of the Party and the Seventeenth National Congress, corresponded with each other in many aspects, and explaind the basic connotation of the spirit of government service. Under the premise of building a service-oriented government and a harmonious society at this stage, the core connotations and requirements of the public service spirit with Chinese characteristics should include unswerving communist faith, the fundamental purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly, fair and impartial performance requirements and a sense of responsibility as well as the practical spirit of having the courage to bring forth new ideas and daring to take responsibilities.
The core connotations of public service spirit, public ethics, and public service motivations are publicity and alterity. In the application study of the application of many public service motivation theories, a large number of facts have verified the three basic assumptions of the Public Service Motivation theory proposed by Perry and Wise: the stronger the public service motivation (PSM) a person has, the more willing he is to work in the public sector; in public organizations, public service motivation affects individual performance; public organizations that can attract people with higher public service motivations may rely less on pragmatists and can effectively manage personal performance. Domestic scholars also concluded through empirical research that public service motivation is positively correlated with individual performance; civil servants with strong public service motivation have higher performance; public service motivation can better explain the variations in contextual performance and task performance which are brought about by interpersonal facilitation and work dedication in individual performance.
II. Three Basic Propositions of Public Service Motivation theory
In early stage, Perry (1990) thought that public service motivation is a broad, multifaceted and elusive concept (Rainey, 1982). At the same time, it is an internal psychological process and will change with the external environment (Zeng Junrong, 2008). Although the public service motivation has not yet formed into a unified concept, in general, the PSM and its related studies have shown convergence and divergence. So far, different countries have carried out research on public service motivation under different cultural backgrounds. The research topics include concepts, characteristics, measurement, influence factors, cross-cultural studies, and application studies. Perry and Wise initially proposed three basic propositions, and also laid the foundation for subsequent research. We can start from these basic propositions and explore its assessment of the impact on calling or stimulating the public service spirit of civil servants.
Proposition 1: The stronger public service motivation a person has, the more willing he is to work in the public sector. Personal behaviors and job choices can be influenced by personal identity and organizational characteristics, which describe the relationship among the "Attraction-Selection-Attrition". Suppose that an organization can use property to attract or select employees in accordance with personal attributes. In turn, personal attributes can also affect the organizations. The stronger the individual's rational motivation, normative motivation, and emotional motivation are, the more he will look for elements that meet individual needs from the organization.
Proposition 2: In public organizations, public service motivation affects individual performance. The arguments of Perry and Wise (1990, 371) have two aspects: first, the nature of the work in the public sector can stimulate individuals to have higher public service motivation, because individuals are more willing to accept the works with higher tasks; second, public service motivation may affect organizational commitment, possible role behaviors and innovation activities. Both are critical to personal behaviors.
Proposition 3: Public organizations that can attract people with higher public service motivations may rely less on pragmatists and can effectively manage personal performance. Economists (Delfgaauw and Dur 2008a; 2008b; Georelis, Iossa, and Tabvuma 2008) proposed that public service motivations increased the government's ability to minimize costs because it can provide lower financial incentives than private firms. If employees have high public service motivations, public service organizations will offset financial incentive costs through non-utilitarian rewards.
In general, public-sector workers have less value for material rewards than private-sector workers. The public service sector offers a wide range of incentives that can call for more social attributes of the public profession. Therefore, internal rewards are more important than economic external rewards. In other words, public organizations are more inclined to low-powered incentive structures. The motivation crowding theory believes that this is a rational decision because it can avoid undermining internal motivation.
Public service motivation theory was first proposed overseas and has been studied for many years. Some domestic scholars introduced it to China, but there are not many cases of empirical research based on China's national conditions. Western scholars such as Perry and Wise, initially studied that the basis of human nature assumption of public service motivation was the “economic man” assumption which argued that man’s nature is to pursue personal interests and maximize his own economic interests. Later on, the relevant indicators and the public service motivation theory in various dimensions proposed by Perry are basically premised on the assumption of “social people”. In our country, the traditional concept is that “Man’s nature at birth is good”. We must integrate China’s reality when we understand and apply the above three basic theoretical assumptions. At present, China implements the strategy of "ruling the country according to law" and "ruling the country by virtue". It uses ethics to restrict the words and deeds of public officials, and uses "ethical anomie" to indicate the moral loss of public officials, which objectively requires the public officials to meet the assumption of "moral man". Public officials must abandon their private interests, pursue public interests, serve the people wholeheartedly, and set high standards for moral quality.
III．Approach to Shape Public Service Spirit
At present, some of civil servants in China have less "public servant consciousness", they are lack of public service spirit and make "public power" marketable; they have light sense of duty, legal liability and moral responsibility but rather emphasize administrative responsibility; and there is no fair and just service spirit. Based on the three basic assumptions of PSM theory put forward by Perry and Wise, we can understand the development and management of human resources in the public sector from a new perspective, and therefore stimulate the civil servants’ internal motivations of public service by strengthening the internal incentives and focusing on inherence of external incentives.
To enhance the internal motivation of the public sector workers is to achieve the externality of the internal incentives. In other words, it is to stimulate the internal motivation of individuals so as to improve the public service performance. This requires to build certain harmonious relationships. The first is the harmony of individual characteristics and organization or post, which needs to improve the matched-degree of “individual-organization” (post). Public organizations can adopt targeted internal incentives, such as mission incentive, competence incentive, spiritual incentive, reputation incentive, and independent empowerment incentive so as to increase the degree of matching between public service motivation and internal motivation. This way of stimulating personal internal motivation can not only improve the satisfaction of public service staff, but also reduce the incentive cost and improve the efficiency of public services. In the recruiting and selection stage of newly recruited personnel, public service personnel with public service motivations can be effectively matched with the posts featuring strong public welfare through independent competition for jobs so as to enhance the matching degree between public service motivation and posts or tasks. In addition, public organizations can reshape the service-oriented administrative culture. This spiritual restraint is a self-conscious constraint and is the fundamental guarantee for civil servants to abide by the law.
The second is the harmony of human resources management policies and work characteristics of public organizations. The social governance in the new era is the process of joint cooperation among the multiple governance entities. The relationships among various governance subjects are not the obligation and benefit, command and obedience, but the self-esteem and honor of the staff and the equal relationship with the managers. At work, staff members will not always accept manager’s authority but require to positively participate in organizational decision-making and management. The third is that people have the harmony among the "triple structures". Professor Zhang Kangzhi believes that in addition to physical existence and spiritual existence, there are people's moral existence. Man’s moral existence is the highest form of human existence and its ultimate form is conscience. Man is a complex synthesis. The physical existence, spiritual existence, and moral existence of man determine that people have opposite tendencies and impulses. Only coordinate these two things can one become a complete person. Man’s physiological needs will be reflected on psychology and will be transformed into spiritual existence. And one’s moral existence will also be transformed into the adults’ spiritual existence through the psychology. Conscience is the highest form of moral existence, which should be skillfully used in public management.
The premise of public choice theory is the assumption of "economic man", while the public service motivation is exactly the criticism and reflection of public choice theory. The author believes that "ethical economic man" is the ideal humanity assumption of Chinese civil servants under the service-oriented government governance model. The administrative personality of "ethical economic man" is the outward manifestation of the independent administrative personality and the ethical role definition of shaping civil servants' administrative personality. We say that conscience is a being-for-itself. It is a kind of realm that is achieved as a moral sublimation and it does not need the support of other factors as its existence premise. To strengthen the establishment of an external control mechanism of shaping administrative personality of civil servants in order to achieve heteronomy. To strengthen the establishment of the internal control mechanism of shaping the administrative personality of civil servants in order to achieve self-discipline. It is possible to transform the service spirit in public management – a new type of social governance model – into individual moral belief and behavioral standards, namely, to transform the service spirit and principles which are set as the strength of institution and system structure into individual moral strength. As a result, public management behavior is no longer a professional behavior in the traditional sense, but an ethical behavior in public management professional activities.
While stimulating the internal motivation of public sector workers, we must also pay attention to the internality of external incentives. Public service motivation affects individual performance, and organizational commitment also affects personal satisfaction. Although there are many factors affecting individual performance, and there are some mediating factors between the relationship of public service motivation and individual performance, the incentive factors that come from the organization cannot be ignored. Organizational commitment refers to its emotional dimension, that is, the degree of an organization member’s involvement and the participation in social interactions. It includes the identification of value goals, employees’ pride, and the willingness to sacrifice and contribute to the organization for the benefit of the organization, showing that employees work hard and be loyal under the organizational goals.
"Publicity" and " Alterity " are the common points of public service spirit and public service motivation. In the connotation of the public service spirit, it also “calls for” the public ethical spirit, which is the need for building a cooperative governance system in the sense of social governance. In the new era, our country proposed to build a service-oriented government. The key to improve the efficiency of the government's public services, and to realize the modernization of social governance is to build a modern civil service team with public service spirit. The spirit of public service is the essential basis for our service-oriented government to establish value orientation, and it is the criterion for the government to evaluate, judge and select public goods and public services. To shape the civil servants’ public service spirit, on the one hand, we must start with “self-cultivation”, strengthen self-discipline, pay attention to the transformation of the subjective world, enhance personal quality, and consolidate and improve service consciousness. In the work, we must establish the image of a public service-oriented government. Civil servants should achieve “three transformations”: the first it to change the concept of power, and govern by the mandate of the people; the second is to change the style of work, and empathize with the feelings of the people; the third is to change the operational mechanism, and work for the benefits of the people. On the other hand, we must emphasize and improve all kinds of organizational systems, including the system of law-based administration, the administrative disclosing system, the liability system, and the system of competition and motivation, and strengthen the civil servants' service awareness, legal consciousness, and sense of responsibility. At the same time, we should develop public ethic in the interactive relationship between the government and society, and exert the normative and guiding role of public ethics so that the establishment and function of public ethics are gradually transformed from government-guided, government-decided, and government-build type to social-driven, social-chosen, and social-cultivated one, and then get out of the predicament of public ethics construction and role play through the joint effort of the government and society.
This article is an excerpt from Zhang Suhong, Kong Fanbing: “On the Shaping of the Spirit of Public Service from the Perspective of Public Service Motivation”, “Nanjing Journal of Social Science”, 2016, No.11.