Personnel Constraints in Public Organizations: The Impact of Reward and Punishment on Organizational Performance


  • Gene A. Brewer is associate professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia. His research interests include administrative reform, human resource management, public service performance, and policy implementation. He teaches graduate seminars on the main campus in Athens and lectures and consults on public management and selected policy issues internationally. He is currently a visiting professor of public management at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. E-mail:

  • Richard M. Walker is professor of public management and policy in the Department of Public and Social Administration at City University of Hong Kong. His research interests focus on innovation, publicness, red tape, strategic management and organizational performance in public agencies, together with sustainable development. E-mail:


In recent years, many public sector reforms have attempted to loosen personnel constraints on the assumption that more managerial flexibility will increase organizational performance. The authors mount an empirical study to test this assumption using data taken from English local government authorities. Personnel constraints are operationalized using Rainey's long-standing measures of the concept. Statistical results from multiple regression analyses indicate that “difficulty in removing poor managers” is harmful to organizational performance, but “difficulty in rewarding good managers” has no effect. The authors delve inside the organizational hierarchy and find that attitudes toward personnel constraints vary by organizational level and managerial rank: for example, frontline managers feel more constrained overall, while senior managers’ perceptions of constraints are more closely linked to organizational performance but in some unexpected ways. The implications of these findings, including the fact that personnel constraints have varying impacts on organizational performance, are considered.