Mandarins versus Machiavellians? On Differences between Work Motivations of Administrative and Political Elites



This article explores how work motivations differ between administrative and political elites, based on 94 qualitative interviews conducted in the Netherlands, European Union, and United States. Both elite groups are primarily motivated in their initial choice of public service by wanting to contribute to, serve, or improve society; job content, career opportunities, political ideals, and personal background are also important motivators. Once in public service, serving society remains important, but politicians differ from public managers in that they want to have a big impact and bring about actual societal change, and they consider themselves best equipped to do so, whereas the latter value intellectually stimulating work more than anything else. Motivational categories for both groups are relatively stable across institutional settings. Theorizing on the results, the author offers seven propositions for future research. This article contributes to the research on motivation in the public domain by using qualitative methodology and including politicians.