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Session Recap: Goal-Setting and Motivation in Public Organizations

November 12, 2014 01:00 PM

By Liu Yi, Harvard University

Public service motivation (PSM) theory has drawn great attention from public management and administration circles. Recent research has focused on PSM itself or the relationship between PSM and other important topics such as performance, incentives, and more.

With a hypothesis that individuals with higher PSM are more likely to persist in their efforts to deliver public services in the face of “failure,” William G. Resh from the University of Southern California conducted research with John D. Marvel at George Mason University on the persistence of pro-social motivations under conditions of negative feedback. In other words, the authors were interested in whether PSM is a durable trait. They concluded in their paper In the Face of Failure: The Persistence of Pro-Social Motivations Under Conditions of Negative Feedback that PSM is a precondition for mission valence to translate to persistence in work effort.

With the research question of how goal properties in public organizations affect employee’s perceived fairness of performance appraisal, Ji Han Lee and James R. Harrington from University of Texas at Dallas presented research progress on this topic in Does Goal Setting Matter? The Impact of Individual and Managerial-Level Goal Properties on Public Employees’ Perception of Performance Appraisal Fairness in U.S. Federal Agencies.

Recent studies on performance management suggest that managing employees’ perception of performance appraisal fairness is more important than any other structural factors (i.e., performance appraisal tools, performance appraisal frequency, etc.). Their study aimed to examine the impact of goal properties, including individual-level goal properties (goal difficulty, goal importance, and goal specificity) and managerial-level goal specificity on U.S. federal employees’ perceptions of performance appraisal fairness. Harrington and Lee’s study contributed to further understanding of performance appraisal fairness in the public sector in terms of highlighting the role of the goal properties at both the individual-level and managerial-level from a perspective of research implication.

Since managerial coaching has been gaining more popularity within government organizations and in management training recently, Toby Egan from the University of Maryland came up with the argument in The Impact of Managerial Coaching on Government Employee Goal Setting and Achievement that one of the most important behaviors for managers to elicit, as part of employee goal achievement, is managerial coaching.

Using goal-setting and organization support theories, this two-wave study investigated the relationships between perceived managerial coaching behavior and employee outcomes for 1,273 members of a statewide public employees association, located in the central United States. At the end of his paper, he concluded that more qualitative and quantitative studies should be conducted on this topic. Meanwhile, factors such as leader member exchange, turnover and organization citizenship behavior should be taken into consideration in future research.

Discussant Laura Langbein from American University gave each paper some useful comments on data selection and analysis, especially on how to modify William’s experiment. The audience discussion centered around the SEM model construction within different topic.



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