Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Perceived Public Participation Efficacy: The Differential Influence of Public Service Motivation across Organizational Strata

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Perceived Public Participation Efficacy: The Differential Influence of Public Service Motivation across Organizational Strata

Article excerpt

Introduction

Although involving the public directly in the policy-making process can improve policy as well as benefit both citizens and civil servants (Irvin & Stansbury, 2004; MacNair, Caldwell, & Pollane, 1983; Neshkova & Guo 2012; Stivers, 1994), designing and implementing effective public participation strategies is challenging. One factor that has emerged as important to the success of such efforts is the perspective of the bureaucrats responsible for implementing them (Coursey, Yang, & Pandey, 2012; Kweit & Kweit, 1981; Yang, 2005). Although citizen participation has been prescribed as an antidote to bureaucratic power, its use can open up yet another space in which bureaucrats have disproportionate discretion and control (Moynihan, 2003). Administrators will not necessarily act as the neutral agents of their political principles (Feldman & Khademian, 2002), and may have sufficient autonomy in implementing participation to determine not only when and to what extent the public participates but also the structure, scope, and meaning of the event itself (Thomas, 1995). If improved decision making is not prioritized, processes may be structured so that bureaucratic control over final decisions is not threatened, rendering involvement efforts symbolic rather than substantive (King, Feltey, & Susel, 1998; Yang & Callahan, 2007). As such, to better secure the potential benefits of greater public involvement, it is important to understand the factors that lead administrators to view participation as an effective instalment of policy development.

This study focuses on individual, job, and organizational factors that can shape the extent to which civil servants view public involvement as an effective vehicle of policy development. Given the potential costs as well as benefits associated with public participation (Irvin & Stansbury, 2004; Moynihan, 2003), we argue that public service motivation (PSM; Perry, 1996; Perry & Wise, 1990), which underlies a concern for the public good as well as a willingness to make personal sacrifices to enhance it, will be associated with higher levels of perceived participation efficacy among public servants. At the same time, the different priorities, responsibilities, and work contexts that distinguish jobs across the public service contribute to beliefs about service-relevant values and reforms (Walker & Brewer, 2008; Walker & Enticott, 2004). Building on this insight, we argue that high-ranking civil servants will be more likely than their frontline colleagues to perceive personal and policy-related risks associated with public participation, and in turn have a less favorable view of it. Finally, drawing on PSM theory (Kim & Vandenabeele, 2010; Perry & Vandenabeele, 2008), we further argue that precisely because of the greater potential costs for higher level civil servants, the role of PSM will be a more decisive determinant of perceived participation efficacy for high-ranking staff relative to those on the frontlines.

In the sections that follow, we discuss the relationships between perceived participation efficacy and both PSM and civil service grade. Second, we introduce a number of additional predictors at the organization and individual levels identified in previous literature. Centralization of authority, perceived red tape, and goal clarity may each in their own way influence beliefs about participation by shaping the perception of the costs and benefits involved (King et al., 1998; Kweit & Kweit, 1984; Yang & Pandey, 2011). In addition, we discuss the role of trust in citizens, which has been called "a missing link" in successful citizen involvement efforts (Yang, 2005). Controlling for this individual-level factor can help us isolate the effect of PSM, which is the central concern of this study. We test our hypotheses using data from a survey of central government employees in South Korea and a series of ordered logistic regressions, further estimating effect sizes using Monte Carlo simulations (Tomz, Wittenbert, & King, 2001). …

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