A Strategy for Building Public Service Motivation Research Internationally


Sangmook Kim is a professor of public administration at Seoul National University of Technology, Korea. His research interests are public service motivation, organizational behavior, human resources management, public management reform, and genderrelated issues.

Wouter Vandenabeele is an assistant professor of human resource management at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and a Research Foundation-Flanders research fellow at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. His research interests include the motivation of public servants and public service motivation, organizational behavior, and strategic human resource management. His work has been published in Public Administration, Public Management Review, International Public Management Journal, and the International Review of Administrative Sciences.


As public service motivation research grows qualitatively and quantitatively, some scholars question its appropriateness for international applications. This essay sets out a strategy of convergence for international research and measurement approaches. Studies that assess commonalities in public service motivation content internationally are analyzed in order to develop a broader conceptual and more operational definition as well as consequently a more universal public service motivation construct. Public service motives, according to this review, are based on self-sacrifice and fall into three categories: instrumental, value-based, and identification. The dimensions of the public service motivation construct are refined along the lines of attraction to public participation, commitment to public values, compassion, and self-sacrifice. Researchers are urged to include all of its dimensions within their empirical studies to advance contemporary public service motivation studies.