Does the Love of Money Moderate the Relationship between Public Service Motivation and Job Satisfaction? The Case of Chinese Professionals in the Public Sector


Bang-Cheng Liu is an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management in the Department of Public Administration, School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His research focuses on cross-cultural organizational behavior, strategic human resource management, and knowledge management.

Thomas Li-Ping Tang is a professor of management in the Department of Management and Marketing, Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Middle Tennessee State University. His research interests are in the areas of work motivation, compensation, money attitudes, money ethic (the love of money, stewardship of money, monetary intelligence), temptations, unethical behavior intention, satisfaction, and cross-cultural issues. He is the winner of two Outstanding Research Awards (1991, 1999), the Distinguished International Service Award (1999), Outstanding Faculty Member (2008), and Outstanding Career Achievement Award (2008) at Middle Tennessee State University.


To what extent do attitudes toward money—specifically, the love of money—moderate the relationship between public service motivation and job satisfaction among public sector professionals in China? The authors collected data from full-time public sector professionals who also were part-time students in a master of public administration program in eastern China. After confirmatory factor analyses, the regression results show that a public servant’s love of money moderates the relationship between public service motivation and job satisfaction—that is, individuals with a strong love of money have a significantly stronger relationship between public service motivation and job satisfaction than those without, a finding that supports the “crowding-in effect.” Alternatively, for high love-of-money civil servants with a “steel rice bowl” mentality, high job satisfaction is explained by the best offer (output) for the minimum amount of effort (input), at least within Chinese culture. Such findings are counterintuitive in light of Chinese personal values, equity theory, public servants’ institutional background, ethical organizational culture, and corruption.