Topics to covered include:
· Understanding worker motivation
· Personnel management
· Hierarchy of needs
· Motivation and satisfaction
· New public service
This lesson looks at how workers work – how to motivate, manage, and generate productivity from workers. In the public sector, those workers serve the public and are the face of government to the everyday citizen. We will take another look at Human Relations. We will explore Mary Parker Follett’s descriptions of following orders, David Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” and his theory of human motivation. Elton Mayo studied motivation of employees, and his results were used by Frederick Taylor to create the science of administration. In the 1950s, human relations became more focused on psychology and the empirical behavioral approach. Douglas MacGregor developed Theory X and Y that identified two different types of motivation. Frederick Herzberg followed this with a catalog of satisfaction and dissatisfaction factors that explained employee attitudes and workplace motivators. Finally, in the 1960s, William Mosher ushered in the need for a New Public Service when he questioned the entrenchment of professional bureaucracy in the face of maintaining our democracy. We will look in depth at these approaches throughout the lesson.
Understanding Worker Motivation
Mary Parker Follett
Why do workers follow orders? This seems like a simple question with an equally simple answer, but early studies of worker behavior found unexpected results. Human relations became the study of why simple answers about workers were not enough to understand their motivations. Mary Parker Follett was a social worker who used her understanding of people to begin to examine how managers could overcome resistance when they give orders. She believed that a win-win scenario was required. If managers had a better relationship with their workers, based on social understanding, then workers would be less resistant to doing work orders they didn’t want to do. In her essay “The Giving of Orders” (Follett, 1926), she recognized that workers had their own form of socialization – small groups in the workplace. Managers could not order by fiat and expect to overcome the social norms and behaviors that formed in those groups. Instead, Follett suggested that managers could create a willingness to support the company by creating scenarios for workers. In this way, they would see the value of what they were being asked to do and would be more willing to do it. Helping workers understand why the manager was giving the order, and how it fits into the larger company goals, especially as situations evolved and unfolded and orders change, made compliance more likely.
This social ties function of human relations became known as interpersonal intelligence .
“The giving of orders is based on the law of the situation, rather than positional authority…Follett’s key idea in the giving of orders is that each individual takes a conscious, responsible, and experimental attitude toward the experience, noting the results and analyzing the successes and failures by uniting all in a study of the situation” (Feldheim, 2004, p.345).
Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne Studies
Follett’s views were complementary to the experimental studies done by Elton Mayo (1933) at the Hawthorne Plant in the 1920s. He thought that by adjusting lighting and assembly line placement (akin to Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies), that workers would be more efficient and productive. What he found was that when groups of workers were given the option to have a say in their work conditions, for instance being able to set the time when they would get a break, workers became more productive. Productivity was not necessarily about whether it took one minute or two to do a routinized activity. It was about whether workers were willing to put in the effort. And they would be more likely to do so when they were working in groups when they could communicate their sentiments to management, and when they were treated as humans and not robots on the factory line. Mayo began what would become the Human Relations field of study – how employees can be managed, happy, and productive.
Mayo was later criticized for technical aspects of his studies when other scholars raised questions of the validity of the results and their generalizability (Parsons, 1974 as cited in Macefield, 2007). Mayo’s studies used a small group of test subjects and there was no scientific method of selection. Even more problematic was the bias factor. It seemed that those workers who were in the test group felt they were being given a higher standing and could work as they pleased, meaning the test results were biased because the workers knew they were test subjects. Additional scholars such as Charles Perrow (1972) stated that Mayo was substituting one “best way” for many other ways that factory work could be done. Like Herbert Simon, he contended there was no one best way, but many ways to satisfice. Because he was looking for the best answer, he overlooked the complexities of organizations. Because organizations are made up of different units with sometimes competing for goals or interests, workers may behave differently from one another. Without accounting for this in his tests, how did Mayo know which group he was really testing and what those results actually demonstrated? While human relations was deemed important, critics said it could not explain all aspects of industrial production or the workforce as a whole.
Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives
Regardless of the criticism of Mayo’s studies, the human relations field continued and Follett’s notions about human needs created many advancements in industrial and organizational psychology, human motivation, and popular motivational theories expounded by modern authors such as Peter Drucker (1973). For example, Drucker (1954) created management by objectives that put into place performance management of employees. Instead of measuring and testing their performance, Drucker advocated working with employees to determine the objectives of their job and then measure their performance in achieving those objectives. This approach greatly altered the theory of business management and public administration as well. Learn more about what motivates public employees at How to Get Public Workers to Care about Their Jobs.
Charles Merriam, a member of the Brownlow Committee, and Louis Brownlow are seen leaving the White House in this 1938 photograph.
“Public personnel management has been studied extensively, from at least four perspectives. First, it is the functions needed to manage human resources in public agencies. Second, it is the process by which public jobs are allocated. Third, it is the interaction among fundamental societal values that often conflict over who gets public jobs, and how they are allocated. Finally, public personnel management is personnel systems – the laws, rules, organizations, and procedures used to express these abstract values in fulfilling personnel functions” (Klingner & Sabet, 2006).
Patronage was a form of public employment that predated the original civil service commission and merit hiring. While eliminated at the federal level, patronage continued to be a popular way to reward political allies at the state and local government levels until they passed their own reforms and were subject to the Hatch Act of 1939. By its definition, civil service is recognized as the absence of politics in government hiring and instead basing hiring on merit.
Public administration and management scholars were appointed to the President’s Committee on Administrative Management In 1937 and were tasked with delivering recommendations to President Franklin Roosevelt. The Brownlow Commission, named after its chair, Louis Brownlow, recommended significant changes in the staffing and organization of the Executive branch – both in the White House and in Executive agencies. One of the recommendations was to reorganize the civil service – government workers who were not political appointees – and to make sure they had adequate salaries and were satisfied with their jobs. The Commission noted that people were leaving government employment because they were dissatisfied with the career (President’s Committee on Administrative Management, 1937). They recommended jobs have merit requirements, have designated pay grades, and have managerial oversight. Congress rejected the recommendations for political reasons, but eventually, many of the reforms did come to fruition.
The Civil Service Reform Act
Subsequent commissions and task forces have examined the U.S. Civil Service and personnel system many times. In 1978, The Civil Service Reform Act created a new Office of Personnel Management in the Executive Branch to oversee the personnel system. This was one of the recommendations of the Brownlow Commission and took 41 years to be instituted. Consider the amount of attention, time, and energy that has been devoted to the concept of government employment and civil service over time. Why do we have such an investment in people working at the government? We could outsource to private companies nearly all government work. What would be gained? What would we lose by doing that? Accountability to the public is generally the most frequent reason given to maintaining a civil service (Rosenbaum, n.d.). Accountability provides a check on corruption and provides a mechanism that the public’s interest is being acknowledged and addressed through government services and programs as the faithful execution of laws and the budget that is passed by Congress and signed by the President. Understanding what people want and believe they need is our next subject.
Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow (1943) created one of the most frequently cited works in human psychology – the Hierarchy of Needs. This pyramid has influenced generations of scholars, practitioners, and certainly public administrators in understanding human priorities, what services are essential, and even how cities and governments should function.
Maslow looked at people and delineated what matters most to them are the basic needs that are physiological and safety-related – food, shelter, safety. Consider public services such as emergency management, first responders, police, fire, disaster relief, flood insurance. Government puts a priority on these services because they are considered essential. Healthcare also could be considered part of this level and it is a major topic of public policy, public benefits, and even privacy regulations. Food and product safety regulations, agricultural subsidies for food, military expenditures, and environmental protection for clean air and water also could be justified as addressing these basic human needs.
The middle levels of his hierarchy are psychological needs – or emotional needs – that includes esteem, belongingness, and love. It identifies personal accomplishment and having relationships with friends and family as the source of this need. Consider how public services address this. Social work, child services, and mental health all would fit into this category. Preserving the family unit, protecting child-parent relationships, and helping people to achieve psychological balance are fundamental in ensuring that people get to experience esteem and belonging. Education can be seen as a basic fulfillment of people’s productivity. Learning to read, count, and function in the society fit here as well. As a society we have (for various reasons) decided that illiteracy is unproductive and that advancement serves the individual and the society. This second need level on Maslow’s pyramid helps to understand why our system of free, public education is essential.
The top level of the hierarchy is self-fulfillment needs and is referred to as self-actualization . Self-actualization is the ability to go beyond the basic needs and to take on challenges, advanced education, creative pursuits, and to pursue one’s full potential. It builds on the rung below: self-esteem and accomplishment. What programs and services does government pursue to address the needs of self-actualization? We could look at job training and employment support, higher education loans and grants, scientific research funding, space exploration and any number of other advanced technologies and well-being areas. Certainly, space exploration is not necessary for survival on earth on a day-to-day basis. Yet the public has great support for NASA and the space program. President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon by 1969 launched an entire generation to pursue technical-scientific knowledge and apply it. Without government support for NASA, the moon mission would not have happened. Space exploration ushered in the use of high-speed computing, microwave and satellite technology and communication, and many other advancements. We pursue these things because it resonates with our highest need.
Other Examples of High-Level Activities
While science certainly can be justified by the economic gains it produces in terms of products and technology, the government also supports the arts and creativity – for its own sake. Public art has become a standard practice in public projects, even in highway construction, because it is pleasing and serves our highest need for creativity. Learn more about public art here: Public Art 101 .
Maslow recognized that these needs are ubiquitous. But he also used a pyramid as his depiction for a reason. Not everyone values the highest needs as broadly as they do the need for survival. Some people consider needs at the top as luxuries and challenge whether the government should be providing those things at all. It is a question public administrators must continually address as they justify their budget requests and programs and services.
Life is Not Static
Another important consideration to note about Maslow’s hierarchy is that it is not static. While the depiction of a rising pyramid makes it seem as though people flow through the hierarchy, people do not always follow a linear path. Nor do they move through the levels of needs at the same pace. This provides another explanation as to why we have public policy disagreements about the need for and value of certain programs and services. There are some people who do not achieve the highest level of need and are very satisfied at the lower levels and have no desire or recognition of needing anything more. Other people have a far more discerning expectation of what needs must be addressed. There is no correct answer to this conundrum. People as citizens and the “public” have different expectations about what government should deliver in terms of policy and services.
Public management must take into account the various dimensions of human expectations when seeking to motivate government employees. Employees, as people, have similar assumptions about needs and expectations of priorities for themselves. While the pyramid represents the spectrum of needs, not all employees will be motivated by it in the same way. How can the public sector workforce be motivated?
Motivation and Satisfaction
Herzberg (1968) took on the task of understanding what motivates employees in the private sector. This has been widely applied to the public sector as well. He formulated the two-factor theory as an approach to understand what motivates employees. This theory included motivators and hygiene factors. Motivators are considered those conditions that produce satisfaction – which could be job satisfaction, responsibility, achievement, and recognition. These are things that could be found in Maslow’s second level of psychological needs. Hygiene factors primarily produce dissatisfaction. These include salary, working conditions and safety, relationships on the job with co-workers and supervisors, and company policies. If people believe they are being treated unfairly, being taken advantage of, and not being heard, they will likely have increased dissatisfaction. These are closer to the lower rungs of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
Separate, Not Equal
One of the key points of understanding the two-factor theory is that they are separate and not equal. Increasing motivation factors does not diminish the need for hygiene factors and vice versa. Providing employee recognition will not overcome dissatisfaction with the rate of pay for example. But providing recognition along with a reasonable salary may produce higher motivation and thus productivity. This is especially relevant when thinking about public employees. Public salaries are often lower than comparable work in the private sector – teachers, police, sanitation workers provide widely needed services and are not always as well paid as comparable work in the private sector. There are ways to motivate public workers, but the hygiene factors of dissatisfaction will continue to be present – especially considering those agencies and bureaus that are rule-bound, hierarchical, and inflexible. The reputation of poor-performing public employees may have more to do with hygiene factors than any personal qualities of the employee. Understanding the power of motivators may be essential for the human relations of public sector employees.
Theory X and Y
Douglas MacGregor (1957) also studied the types of motivation that can be identified in employees. He developed the management theory of X and Y (see Lesson 1). He postulated that managers who fit Theory X are more likely to be difficult and demanding, having expectations of workers that likely will be unmet. Workers will resist this management style. Managers that are Theory Y are more likely to be participatory in their management style. Workers will respond to this more freely and may be more productive because they have been included in the process of management. It is the difference between managing “things” and managing people with human responses. If we consider the evolution of management “license” through decentralization, we can begin to understand Theory X and Y in practice. By decentralizing authority, public administrators have built systems that reward professionalism, norms or standards of practice, and discretionary authority.
One of the motivators that are important and somewhat unique in the public sector is the desire to be of service to the public. For example, police departments use the motto – “to protect and serve.” Consider this a reflection of the concept of servant-leadership . Robert Greenleaf (1977) formulated the idea of servant-leadership as a continuum of two opposite points – leadership and service. By finding a common ground, he felt that organizations (institutions) and managers could provide a benefit to the workplace as well as the community through whatever product they sold or service they provided. A servant-leader has the characteristics of being cooperative and uplifting. They engage in practices such as listening, persuasion, empathy, and stewardship. Using this concept of the motivation of employees and leadership style, we can begin to see how public administrators can provide an environment that meets Maslow’s higher order needs and can produce greater satisfaction at work as outlined by Herzberg. Certainly, servant-leadership fits within the realm of providing public service to fellow citizens and to provide for the greater good.
New Public Service: Morton Grodzins
Scholars have examined human relations in public administration from many angles in order to understand the value it brings to making the public sector function as intended while also serving the needs of the employees it is meant to manage.
Morton Grodzins (1951) brought to light the difficulty of making human relations a scientific theory. He was concerned that such types of applied research were “fact-happy” and that the applied researcher “fails to come to grips with the important scientific questions: What are the significant facts to observe? How can he reliably record what is significant as opposed to what is easy? How can he relate his observations to general propositions?” (Grodzins, 1951, p. 95).
Grodzins was concerned that the “human” part of human relations was feel-good and was not necessarily responsible for making productivity or results better in government organizations. While it may not be able to meet the scientific standard, Grodzins recognized that human managers were nearly impossible to study because their judgments and approaches were often value-laden – because they are human beings. He stated,
“It is not only true that policy must be made with more than facts. It is also true that when scientists recommend policy they are not acting in their capacity as scientists” (Grodzins, 1951, p. 98).
Further, he states,
“The science of human relations constitutes an effective tool for the manipulation of men” (Grodzins, 1951, p. 99).
By this, he meant that social science findings could be used as recommendations that move policy in opposite directions because findings could have many meanings. For Grodzins, this meant that human relations must be carefully used and understood.
“Exact knowledge does not lead in a straight line to wise policy. The policy must emerge from reasoning that is something more profound than knowledge of facts and something more comprehensive than scientific method” (Grodzins, 1951, p. 101).
New Public Service: Frederick Mosher
While Grodzins focused on human relations, Frederick Mosher, a leading pracademic (practicing academic), focused on the impact of the bureaucracy on our democracy. He wrote a seminal work, Democracy and the Public Service in 1968. In reviewing this work, Plant (2007, p. 182-183) notes the stages of administration we have already covered – from Woodrow Wilson to Herbert Simon. Here he positions Mosher’s call for new public service when he writes,
“Mosher’s breakdown of American administrative history into the familiar typology of ‘Government by Gentlemen,’ ‘Government by the Common Man,’ ‘Government by the Good,’ ‘Government by the Efficient,’ and ‘Government by Administrators’ (with the implicit notion that the current phase is ‘Government by Professionals’) is well known…. Mosher’s definition of professions as ‘social mechanisms whereby knowledge, including particularly new knowledge, is translated into action and service.’ ” (Plant, 2007, p. 102).
It is important to understand that public administrators as professionals are very different than a bureaucratic workforce, hired to take on specific tasks as Weber may have envisioned. Professional administrators are motivated not only by expectations as Herzberg pointed out in his two-factor theory, but also as professionals – with high levels of education, professional norms, and an understanding that their presence inside government bureaucracy has an impact on policymaking and not just the implementation of policy. The professional administrator has a large ripple effect on government and Mosher recognized this may require some normative adjustment about what public administrators should be as professionals.
Mosher’s New Public Service
· MOSHER’S NEW PUBLIC SERVICE POINTS
1. Government decisions and behavior are tremendously influential in our society;
2. These decisions and behaviors are heavily influenced by non-elected administrative officials;
3. The kinds of decisions and behaviors taken depend upon the officials’ capabilities, orientations, and values;
4. These attributes depend upon their backgrounds, training and education, and their current associations (Mosher, 1968, p. 3).
· MOSHER’S CONCERN FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
· Mosher was concerned that the professionalization and norms of the bureaucracy would clash with the interests of the public as expressed through the democratic process. Mosher wrote,
· “Where political appointees invade too far the province of the respective career services, there is a threat to substantive effectiveness, an invitation to inefficiency and even scandal. Where the political appointees are driven out, there is a threat to the general interest in favor of special interests, to “the public” in favor of a self-directed or entrenched bureaucracy” (Mosher, 1968, p. 185).
The entrenched bureaucracy is the double-edged sword of creating a bureaucratic structure in the first place. The self-interest of public workers will emerge which may be self-serving and not public-serving. However, the expertise of the public bureaucrat is considered valuable and keeps the institution working at a high level of efficiency. Institutional memory is an important component of public service – routinization, understanding of rules and regulations, remembering why decisions were made and the rationale for which decisions were accepted and which were discarded. This is an important component of managing employees in a large bureaucracy so that as turnover occurs, the services and programs continue smoothly for citizens who are being served. Mosher saw the conundrum of entrenchment versus institutional performance and called for a new form of public service that serves democracy while producing public services.
Mosher’s concern about how public servants were representing democracy in an evolving age of professionalism led to his call for new public service. Plant (2008, p. 182) summarizes Mosher’s intention:
“Mosher’s intention [was] to explore a new role for public administration education, working not simply as a discipline or sub-discipline with its own set of courses and degree programs but rather as a partner with professional schools of law, medicine, education, and business. The aim would be to produce a new type of public service professional, grounded in the professional fields that were forming the new public service but also sensitive to and knowledgeable about the workings of government.”
It was Mosher’s recognition of the professionalism of new public administrators that ushered in a new examination of public bureaucrats in contrast to political appointees. Later authors such as the Denhart’s and Osborne and Gaebler identified the new directions that public service would take and how this concept of new public service would function.
Human Relations in public administration is greatly influenced by management theorists who study private companies. Despite this, an identifiable element of public service management has developed. Starting with Follett, public service included a dimension of the human emotion and resilience of workers that were serving their fellow citizens. As a social worker, she saw this practical need and incorporated it into her expectation of management. Psychologists sought to understand human needs and emotions. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a foundational piece for understanding why we select public programs and services in the first place, in addition to providing an understanding of worker motivations. Others followed with an examination of how workers respond to managers that adopt Theory X or Theory Y and the two-factor theory of motivation and dissatisfaction. Once we understand the various motivations and responses that workers may have, we can examine the uniqueness of the public sector. Greenleaf’s notion of servant-leadership provides an opportunity to recognize the value of and impact of “service” in public service. Mosher’s call for a New Public Service broke down the two elements he saw most important in public administration management – democracy and bureaucracy. If we are a responsive, democratic nation, then how do we draw a reasonable boundary for the bureaucracy? The bureaucracy will generate its own self-interest and professional identity. It may lose sight of what the public wants and needs as well as expects from its government. This potential clash requires us to re-examine what constitutes public service and how to generate a balance of professional standards and public expectations for their own interests. Human relations is a staple in all areas of management – public and private. It is the special contours of the public sector that require us to think more closely about accountability to the public, the service of public service, and what professional norms and standards can be accommodated in a democracy.
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