Looking At a Job’s Social Impact Through PSM-Tinted Lenses: Probing the Motivation–Perception Relationship


We explore here the relationship between employees’ public service motives and the way they perceive the social impact of their work. Our purpose is twofold. First, while past researchers have examined part of this relationship, largely from the opposite causal direction, we seek to supplement the field’s current understanding of the organizational consequences of public service motivation (PSM), especially its potential impact on an employee’s perceived social impact. Together with a cross-sectional study, we assess several theoretical frameworks that support the possibility of an additional causal link between PSM and perceived social impact. Second, we seek to begin identifying moderators that potentially condition PSM’s relationship with employee perceptions of social impact. Using a sample of municipal employees from a large city in the United States, we focus on organization identity. We find that PSM strongly predicts employees’ perceptions of the social impact of their jobs, and that PSM’s influence is conditioned by an employee’s organization identity.

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