Good Governance Practices in Professional Associations for Public Employees: Evidence of a Public Service Ethos?

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Abstract

Professional associations and occupational societies play an important role in educating and credentialing public employees. Very little research has attempted to connect, empirically, a public service ethos to the professional memberships that public employees carry. Nowhere is that potential influence more likely to be seen than in the governing boards of these nonprofit associations, whose behavior is subject to strong normative and mimetic influences as a result of the public's expectations for good governance. This article uses a large generalizable sample of boards of directors, controlling for many organizational characteristics known to influence board behavior, to compare the governance practices of professional and trade associations serving public employees with those serving the private sector. The results suggest that governance practices are shaped by many forces but that public employees do indeed carry their public values into the associations they join, and these values, in turn, are positively related to board behavior.

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