Exploring Public Sector Communication Performance: Testing a Model and Drawing Implications


Sanjay K. Pandey is an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University, Campus at Camden. His research has been published in PAR, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Administration & Society, the Review of Public Personnel Administration, the Journal of Aging and Social Policy, and Social Science and Medicine. He directed the National Administrative Studies Project (NASP-II), a survey of state health and human service agency managers.E-mail:skpandey@camden.rutgers.edu.

James L. Garnett is a professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University, Campus at Camden. His research interests include administrative communication, reform, and reorganization; crisis management and communication; and strategic management. His books include Reorganizing State Government: The Executive Branch, Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers, The Handbook of Administrative Communication, and Internships for Dummies. Other articles have appeared in Administration & Society and Strategic Change. E-mail:garnett@camden.rutgers.edu.


Despite its importance to agency effectiveness, communication performance is an understudied topic. This is partly attributable to the “performance predicament,” which arises because costs of communication are easier to measure than its benefits. In this study, we develop and test an exploratory model of public sector communication performance that is synthesized from the literature on public–private differences and organizational communication. This model is statistically significant and explains the variation in interpersonal, external, and internal communication performance. This is perhaps the largest empirical study on public sector communication to date. Our findings have two key implications for public managers. First, the constraints of red tape on communication performance can be overcome if key performance-enhancing conditions—goal clarity without rigidity and a culture that supports communication—are in place. Second, external communication poses more challenges and may require additional effort.