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International Journal of Public Administration


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Public Service Motivation and Professionalism


a

Lotte Bgh Andersen & Lene Holm Pedersen


a

Department of Political Science , Aarhus University , Copenhagen , Denmark

AKF, Danish Institute of Governmental Research , Copenhagen , Denmark


Published online: 03 Jan 2012.

To cite this article: Lotte Bgh Andersen & Lene Holm Pedersen (2012) Public Service Motivation and Professionalism,
International Journal of Public Administration, 35:1, 46-57, DOI: 10.1080/01900692.2011.635278
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01900692.2011.635278

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International Journal of Public Administration, 35: 4657, 2012


Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0190-0692 print / 1532-4265 online
DOI: 10.1080/01900692.2011.635278

Public Service Motivation and Professionalism


Lotte Bgh Andersen

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Department of Political Science, Aarhus University and AKF, Danish Institute of Governmental Research,
Copenhagen, Denmark

Lene Holm Pedersen


AKF, Danish Institute of Governmental Research, Copenhagen, Denmark

Public service motivation (PSM) literature has traditionally conceptionalized professionalism


as identification with professional associations. In contrast, this article discusses professionalism as an occupational variable and claims that professionalism relates differently to
the different PSM dimensions and user orientation. Using two different measures of professionalism, the article analyses 845 Danish employees and shows that professionalism is
negatively related to compassion and user orientation, but positively related to attraction to
policy-making. Commitment to the public interest and professionalism are not related. Thus,
professionalism relates to PSM in more complex ways than earlier supposed, pointing towards
an institutional approach to professionalism and PSM.
Keywords: public service motivation, professionalism, user orientation

INTRODUCTION
Many providers of public services are professionals. They
belong to occupations with high levels of specialized, theoretical knowledge and strong intra-occupational norms. This
means that their motivation and behavior potentially differ
from other public employees. While the sociology of professions has already been rediscovered in some parts of the
discipline of public administration (Tonon, 2008; Teodoro,
2010), it has not yet been integrated in the study of public
service motivation. Are professionals more or less motivated
by doing good for others and society than other providers of
public services? Does socialization within an occupational
group with norms and specialized, theoretical knowledge
increase public service motivation (PSM), or is altruistic
motivation replaced by professional norms or even occupational self-interest? Does the association between PSM
and professionalism differ for the different PSM dimensions? These are important questions, especially given that
Correspondence should be addressed to Lotte Bgh Andersen, AKF,
Danish Institute of Governmental Research, Kbmagergade 22, DK-1150,
Copenhagen K, Denmark. E-mail: lba@akf.dk

PSM may increase the individual and organizational performance (Brewer, 2008; Leisink & Steijn, 2009; Andersen &
Serritzlew, 2012). This article therefore investigates how
professionalism and PSM are related.
The main contribution of the article is that it integrates
the sociology of professions and public service motivation
literature and empirically tests the association between PSM
and professionalism, using different operationalizations of
professionalism. The existing literature has predominantly
investigated the effect of individual identification with the
professional organization. For this specification, the results
have been somewhat inconsistent (Perry, 1997; Moynihan &
Pandey, 2007).
We argue that we can more fully understand the relationship by also drawing on the sociology of professions.
We therefore conceptionalize professionalism as the occupational level of specialized, theoretical knowledge combined with the existence of firm intra-occupational norms
(Andersen, 2005, p. 25). Professionalism is thus ultimately
a continuous occupational variable in the sense that some
occupations are more professionalized than others. The term
profession is reserved to describe an occupation with a high
level of professionalism, and professionals are members of
occupations with high levels of professionalism.

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PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION

The central claim in the article is that professionalism


relates differently to the dimensions of public service motivation. Until recently, studies predominantly treated public
service motivation as a unified concept (Coursey et al., 2008,
p. 88), but the public service motivation literature has begun
to treat the concept as first order reflective and second order
formative (Wright & Christensen, 2009; Kim, 2011). The
dimensions may therefore very well have different causes
and consequences. We both investigate the traditional PSM
dimensions (commitment to public interest, compassion,
attraction to public policy) and user orientation as expressing
another type of altruistic motivation linked to the provision
of public service.
This is highly relevant as professional norms do not
apply to all types of behavior (Goodrich & Salancik, 1996;
Andersen & Blegvad, 2006; Andersen & Jakobsen, 2011).
Thus, their correspondence with PSM is also expected to
differ between PSM dimensions. Some dimensions of PSM
may be consistent with professional norms, whereas others
may not. Additionally, professional capacities such as specialized, theoretical knowledge may also affect the dimensions differently. Different professions may also do good for
others and society in different ways; classical bureaucrats
may be attracted to public policy-making whereas health
care workers may be more oriented towards doing good
for the individual users. This implies that professionalism
relates differently to the different types of PSM.
The next section presents the theoretical framework
and proposes three hypotheses concerning the relationship
between professionalism and PSM. After a presentation of
the data and methods, the results are presented and discussed. Finally, the main findings are summarized in the
conclusion.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Within the public administration literature, professionalism
is typically associated with specialized technical knowledge acquired from a formal educational program; ethical
responsibility; working for the common good and lifetime careers (Mosher, 1968). This definition does, however,
rely only on one of the two most important approaches
within the sociology of professions, namely the functionalist
approach. This approach expects professionals (in the course
of their education) to become socialized to an ideology
that asserts greater commitment to doing good work than
to economic gain (Freidson, 2001, p.127). In contrast, the
neo-Weberians warn us that professions can be collectively
self-interested, trying to maintain or establish a monopoly
on providing certain services. Social closure thus refers to
the way in which status groups such as professions (Weber,
1978, p. 306) try to improve their own situation by limiting rewards and opportunities to themselves (Parkin, 1974,
p. 3).

47

The major difference between the two traditional


approaches to professions is that while functionalists see
the professions knowledge as necessary (Goode, 1957,
p. 195) and assume that altruism makes them follow a number of professional norms (MacDonald, 1995, p. 3), the
neo-Weberian approach (in its most extreme form) sees the
professional knowledge as a cover used to get power and
the professional norms as a way to uphold the privileged status of the occupation (Johnson, 1972; Parkin, 1974; Murphy,
1988, pp. 1542). The neo-Weberians assume that professions maximize power, wealth and status (Collins, 1990,
p. 24), while (at least the early) functionalists assume that
they are pure altruists (Parsons, 1954, p. 372; Durkheim,
1992). In relation to PSM, the neo-Weberian approach
implies that professionals are socialized to occupational selfinterest, meaning that professionals might be less willing to
help others and society (have lower PSM). This contrast with
the functionalist expectation that professionals are socialized
to do good.
In our opinion, neither the neo-Weberian nor the functionalistic approach can stand alone in an analysis of the
relationship between PSM and professionalism, as professionals (like other individuals) are neither knights (pure
altruists) nor knaves (pure egoists) (Le Grand, 2003). The
professional knowledge is often necessary, but professionals are not expected to follow norms for altruistic reasons
alone. We thus follow the trend in the sociology of professions which combines insights from the functionalist and
neo-Weberian approaches.
The first element in our understanding of professions is
that professions have a specialized, theoretical knowledge
(Andersen, 2005). Specialized means that only the profession has the knowledge. Theoretical means that the
knowledge involves general understanding of relevant concepts and causal relationships within the field, but that the
knowledge cannot be codified because of the complexity of
the area and the corresponding need for discretionary assessment. For instance, the production of some servicesthis
could be heart surgery demands special expertise which
only one occupation possesses. Especially if this knowledge
is theoretical and therefore less transferable, others will then
be unable to evaluate whether the members of the occupation
did the right thing (Roberts & Dietrich, 1999, p. 985). When
persons outside the profession do not know how a job should
be done, the usual information asymmetry is increased due
to the knowledge asymmetry (Sharma, 1997). The principals
might not even be able to evaluate the outcome; it can, for
example, be difficult to say whether a university student has
obtained adequate knowledge and skills.
The second element in the definition of professionalism is the existence of professional norms. Both the NeoWeberians and the Functionalists have a blind spot concerning institutions, and professional norms can be seen as
institutions. For services demanding specialized, theoretical knowledge, politicians face a serious dilemma, because

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48

ANDERSEN AND PEDERSEN

they cannot control the service production, while voters still


hold them responsible. The politicians may therefore be
interested in a settlement with the profession, according to
which the profession promises to keep its house in order
by upholding certain standards in exchange for higher status
and pecuniary rewards (Day & Klein, 1987, p. 19; Watson,
2003, p. 192).
The need to uphold certain standards leads to the institutionalization of professional norms. Despite the information asymmetry, an occupation can hardly keep its status
as a profession in the long run if sloppy practices are
widespread among individual professionals. The professions
defend their status by boasting careful and competitive selection procedures, training and credentials and by establishing
protocols, specifying best practices, and creating codes of
ethics to limit agent discretion (Shapiro, 2005, p. 275).
In other words, professions formulate and sanction professional norms defined as prescriptions commonly known and
used by the members of an occupation, referring to which
actions are required, prohibited, or permitted in a specific
situation (Ostrom, 1986, p. 4; Andersen, 2005, p. 7173).
In sum, professionalism is the occupational level of specialized, theoretical knowledge combined with the existence
of firm intra-occupational norms (Andersen, 2005, p. 25).
Both these elements are relevant in the measurement of
professionalism.
Public service motivation (PSM) is defined as an
individuals orientation to delivering service to people
with the purpose of doing good for others and society
(Hondeghem & Perry, 2009, p. 6). This definition includes
specific others whereas other definitions of PSM put emphasis on collective entities (Rainey & Steinbauer, 1999, p. 20;
Vandenabeele, 2007, p. 547).The incidence and dimensionality of PSM are fairly well established. The top rows in
Table 1 show the four classical dimensions developed by
Perry (1996). In this article, we follow Coursey & Pandey
(2007) and exclude self-sacrifice. In order to take altruistic motivation to do good for specific others seriously,
we include a user orientation dimension. Whether it should
be included in the PSM construct can be discussed; in this
context it is inconsequential as we will treat the dimensions
separately. The next question is how these dimensions (and
the other insights from the PSM literature) relate to professionalism, and this discussion is structured by the mechanisms through which the concepts can be linked (attraction,
selection, attrition, and socializing).
Attraction denotes a process where an individual is
attracted to something, in this case an occupation with more
or less professionalism. This mechanism could potentially
sort individuals into occupations based on their motivational
structure. Perry & Wise (1990, p. 370) thus argued that the
greater the strengths of public service motives are to an individual, the more likely the individual is to seek environments
which satisfy these needs. Employees with high initial levels of PSM may thus seek out specific occupational groups

TABLE 1
Understanding of the classical PSM dimensions and user
orientation
Dimension
Commitment to
public interest
(public values)

Compassion

Attraction to
policy-making/
public
participation
Self-sacrifice

User orientation

Understanding of
dimension
Motivation to deliver
public services to serve
the relevant society,
based on values and
duty
Emotionally
(empathically) based
motivation to do good
for others by improving
public services
Motivation to improve
decision-making
concerning public
services to help others
and society
The will to bypass ones
own needs to help
others and society by
providing public
services
Motivation to help the
specific user of public
services

Discussed in
Perry (1996)/Kim
&Vandenabeele
(2009)

Perry (1996)

Perry (1996)/Kim
&Vandenabeele
(2009)

Perry (1996)

Vandenabeele
(2008)
Andersen,
Pedersen, &
Pallesen (2011)

(e.g., within health care), where the mission is to help other


people. In this article, we are able to control for the overall job contents, by analyzing health care, education, and
administration separately. We therefore argue that although
attraction due to PSM might very well be important for
the choice among different tasks (curing, teaching, or doing
administrative work) and sectors (public versus private), it
does not affect the level of professionalism substantially.
Within health care (and education and administration) we
expect the choice of occupation in terms of professionalism
(that is, choosing, for example, among becoming a doctor, a nurse, or a health assistant) to be determined much
more by individual ability and socio-economic factors than
by PSM. We therefore argue that attraction is not an important mechanism for the relationship between professionalism
and PSM.
Selection refers to the processes which prioritize some
individuals over other individuals. If higher education institutions prioritized individuals with high PSM over individuals with low PSM (or oppositely), PSM would also affect
professionalism. Similarly, if employers of professionals
emphasized high PSM (and had the choice between different professionals) individuals with low PSM might become
unemployed and therefore leave the profession. However,
these mechanisms are unlikely, because acceptance in a professional education is not based on individual motivation,
and because few professionals leave their profession due

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PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION

to lacking chances to get a job. Like attraction, we therefore assume that the selection effect of PSM at the level of
professionalism is not substantial.
Attrition denotes the gradual, natural reduction in membership or personnel, as through retirement, resignation, or
death. Similar to selection and attraction, our assessment
is that attrition is of minor importance for the association
between professionalism and PSM. Few leave their occupation before retirement, and age-based differences can be
handled by controlling for age. The expectation that attraction, selection, and attrition cannot be expected to cause
substantial effects from PSM to professionalism can, of
course, only be confirmed by panel studies over a long
period, but given that we control for task and sector, we
find it reasonable to treat PSM as the dependent variable
in the analyses. This is also in accordance with the rest
of the literature (Perry, 1996; Perry & Hondeghem, 2008b,
p. 298). We therefore concentrate on the last mechanism,
socialization, which means the process where individuals internalize the values and norms of their peers. We
discuss
1. the arguments for a positive effect,
2. the arguments for a negative effect and finally
3. the arguments for a conditional effect.
Considering the arguments for a positive socialization
effect, Pandey & Stazyk (2008, pp. 1056) argue that professions have ethical codes emphasizing the promotion of
the public interest, but that the effect on PSM depends
on the socializing institutions of the professional associations. In terms of this article, strong socialization necessarily exists within professions, because firm professional
norms are defining characteristics, but it is not self-evident
that this socialization is directed towards (all dimensions
of) PSM. Socialization within professions can potentially
happen already during the formal education.
Within the PSM literature, Perry (2000, pp. 4801) also
argues that schools are an important source in terms of
influencing the motivation of individuals. He expects both
educational level and professional training to affect the
level of PSM. Socialization can also happen after the education is finished, both spontaneously between individual
professionals and within the settings of professional organizations. The existing literature has primarily investigated the
socialization linked to the professional organization. Perry
(1997, p. 185) thus expects that professional organizations
shape the ethical norms of their members and that membership and active participation of these organizations therefore
increase public service motivation. Moynihan & Pandey
(2007, p. 46) also find that professional identification affects
PSM strongly and uniformly positive. In contrast, Perry
(1997) finds that professional identification had no overall
positive effect and has a negative influence for attraction to
policy-making.

49

But what are the arguments for a negative socialization effect of professionalism on PSM? In relation to the
mentioned studies, the difference might be due to the
measurement; Moynihan & Pandey used a dichotomous
measure of membership in professional organizations,
whereas Perry measured activities in and attitudes towards
professional organizations. In contrast to these studies, this
article conceptionalizes professionalism as an occupational
variable. This conceptualization is especially important for
the discussion of why professionals may be socialized to
(occupational) selfishness, implying that professionalism
negatively affects PSM as implicitly implied by the neoWeberian approach. Freidson argues that professional power
exists as a protected position for the occupation in the social
division of labor; as authority, status, and expertise in interactions with individual users; and as dominance in the larger
political economy of ideas (1970, 1986). Frankford (1997,
p. 196) argues that this power is based on professionals creating ideas about their subject area; that these ideas come to
dominate the laity, and that this power over ideas is embodied in educational (and other types of) institutions. He argues
that both professions as collectives and professionals as individuals possess this power, and that it is exercised against
other occupations, individual users and society as a collective, particularly as embodied in the political and legal
systems.
In the public administration literature, Mosher has (1968,
p. 210) called attention to the perspective on professionals,
arguing that the general interest might be substituted by the
(narrower) professional perspective influenced by the professionals own interests (see also Perry 2007, p. 5). Perry
(1997, p. 185) touches on this issue, stating that the degree
to which professionalism influences public service motivation is likely to be constrained by tension between professional self-interest and the ideal of professional responsibility to higher ethical and moral standards. Despite this
tension, Perry still expects that identification with a profession is positively related to public service motivation.
In contrast, we argue that a more nuanced discussion, relating to the PSM dimensions, is necessary to account for the
countervailing forces of professionalism.
As mentioned, there are also arguments for a conditional
socialization effect of professionalism on PSM, implying
that the effect can be positive under some circumstances
and negative under other circumstances. An institutional
approach to professionalism thus calls attention to the fact
that sometimes professional norms and PSM can be competing motivations. If a firm professional norm exists, professionals from the same occupation are expected to behave
and perform similarly (either because the professionals find
the norms the right way to do things or because of (collective) self-interest in upholding the privileged position of
the profession). This implies that other types of motivation
(both altruistic such as PSM and egoistic such as pecuniary
motives) matter less. The professional norms do, however,

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50

ANDERSEN AND PEDERSEN

differ from profession to profession, and it is also different for the PSM dimensions, whether they clash with the
professional norms.
Commitment to the public interest (motivation to deliver
public services to serve the entire relevant society based
on values and duty) hardly clashes with professional norms
in any profession. Given the argument presented above for
including these norms in the definition of professionalism,
they are created to guarantee good service for society in the
implicit bargain between profession and public. In contrast,
we clearly expect all professionals to have lower levels of
compassion. Given that professionals act in accordance with
norms and based on the specialized, theoretical knowledge,
this emotionally based type of motivation should not characterize them. The professional socialization is expected to be
directed towards internalizing norms and removing emotions
as the basis of decision-making; professional power is based
on the ability to convince the public that the professional
autonomy is based on expertise. Professionals are supposed
to respond analytically (rather than emotionally) to people
in need.
The same logic applies to user orientation. Seen from
a professions perspective, only professionals (and not the
users) have the right theoretical and specialized knowledge
to take decisions, and professionals should not be oriented
towards the perceived needs of the user. As Mosher (1968,
p. 109) formulated it there are correct ways of solving
problems and doing things.
Concerning attraction to policy-making, it is harder to
form specific expectations. Mosher (1968, p. 108) argues
that there is a built-in aversion between the professions
and politics, originating in the historical fact that most professions have fought politicians who are seen as amateurs
trying to infiltrate, dominate and influence their work substance to the expense of specialized knowledge, science
and rationality. On the other hand, the literature on political
efficacy and political participation (Milbrath, 1965; Verba,
Schlozman, & Brady, 1995; Vecchione & Caprara, 2009) has
shown that higher education increases political participation
(Vecchione & Caprara, 2009), and professionals normally
have a long education. As it is impossible to say which effect
dominates, we cannot offer specific expectations for attraction to policy-making. The three investigated hypotheses
thus are:
Hypothesis 1: Professionalism and commitment to the public
interest are not correlated.
Hypothesis 2: Public service providers, who are members
of occupations with a high level of professionalism, have
lower levels of compassion than other public service
providers.
Hypothesis 3: Public service providers, who are members
of occupations with a high level of professionalism, have
lower levels of user orientation than other public service
providers.

The institutional approach to professionalism also


calls attention to the institutional context in which
professionalism relates to PSM. This is not the main focus
here, but including the subject area (education, health and
administration) allows us to explore this factor. For example,
we would expect that administrators, especially in the public
sector, are more attracted to politics, because Danish administrators organizationally are placed closer to the political
core and thus are institutionally closer to decision-making.

DATA AND METHODS


The study has been designed to get variation in the level of
professionalism while holding other variables constant. The
investigation is based on a survey of 3,304 Danish employees from the private and public sector. The respondents are
Danish employees between the ages of 25 and 64. The sample includes both private sector and public sector employees.
The data were collected by Zapera in June 2009 in a
web-survey undertaken using a web-panel. The representativeness of web-panels can be seriously questioned, but as
we are interested in testing a causal relation, rather than getting a full picture of the Danish population, this does not
constitute an important problem in the present context.
We analyze a sub-sample of these (n = 959), namely
those belonging to nine occupations from three different
parts of the public sector (education, health, and administration). 845 of these answered all the relevant questions and
are used in the analyses. For education, university teachers for example have a higher level of professionalism than
high-school teachers who again (at the occupational level)
have more specialized, theoretical knowledge and firmer
norms than primary school teachers. Comparing these different types of teachers enables us to hold the basic task (education) constant while varying professionalism and the same
applies to health care and administration. Including employees performing three different tasks (education, health, and
administration) ensures that the results are robust in terms
of their applicability to different tasks, and it also allows
us to investigate differences in the level of PSM between
providers of different public services.
Table 2 shows the investigated four types of teachers
(university, high school, primary, and higher secondary and
pre-school teachers), three types of health care workers
(physicians, nurses, and health assistants), and two types
of administrators (with and without a university degree).
Apart from our wish to be able to vary professionalism,
while holding the area constant, the criterion for selecting
an occupation was that more than 25 from this occupation answered the questionnaire. An occupation is defined
as a group of employees who share the same education
and perform approximately the same task. Practically, we
asked the respondents to describe their job category in detail,
and afterwards we coded them based on DISCO 88. It is

PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION

51

TABLE 2
Investigated occupations after their professionalism and service area (number of respondents)
Criteria
Very high professionalism

High professionalism

Medium professionalism

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Low professionalism

Years

Specialized and theoretical


knowledge which only the
occupation possesses combined
with strict norms which are
sanctioned.
Specialized and theoretical
knowledge combined with norms
which are sometimes sanctioned.
Theoretical knowledge combined
with norms which are sometimes
sanctioned.
A little theoretical knowledge and
maybe norms which are not
sanctioned.

Teaching occupations
University teachers
(8 years/7.20) n = 29

Health occupations
Physicians
(8 years/7.74)
n = 56

High-school teachers
(5 years/5.32) n = 28
School teachers
(4 years/4.64)
n = 189
Pre-school teachers
(3.5 years/4.08)
n = 104

Administrative
occupations

Administrators with
university degree
(5 years/6.25) n = 83
Nurses (3.5 years/
5.71) n = 78
Health assistants
(1.5 years/3.10)
n = 88

Administrators with
vocational training
(3/4.11) n = 304

of education and prestige measure in brackets.

the official Danish version of the international occupational


classification ISCO-88. A description of DISCO 88 can
be seen at http://www.dst.dk/Vejviser/Portal/loen/DISCO/
DISCO-88.aspx.
In the analysis, two different measures of professionalism are employed. As we will discuss in detail below, the
qualitative measure has high measurement validity, and the
quantitative measure has high reliability. We present analyses with both measures to make sure that the findings are
robust in terms of similar results for measures with very
different strengths and weaknesses.
The qualitative measure of professionalism is based on a
qualitative coding of the level of theoretical knowledge and
the firmness of the intra-occupational norms for the investigated nine occupations. These occupations are coded in
four categories according to the criteria listed in Table 2.
The material coded is semi-structured interviews, secondary
data, and analyses of their formal education (see Appendix
B for a list of the material). The strength of this measure is
that it has high measurement validity as the two central elements in the theoretical definition knowledge and norms
are reflected in the criteria on which the coding is based.
The classification does, however, depend on the judgment
of the researcher, meaning lower inter-subjective transferability. The reliability of the qualitative measure is therefore
relatively low. In sum, the qualitative measure of professionalism measures what it purports to measure, but it does not
do it very precisely.
The quantitative measure of professionalism is a formative index based on two quantitative indicators of the occupational level of norms and specialized, theoretical knowledge.
The first quantitative indicator is length of education measured in number of years (stated in parentheses in Table 2).
Length of education and level of theoretical, specialized
knowledge are closely related, and education can therefore
be used as an indicator of this element of professionalism.

Still, not all education is both theoretical and specialized,


and the indicator only measures one of the two elements
in the definition of professionalism. It is therefore necessary to supplement with another quantitative indicator of
professionalism.
We use an indicator from a survey-based assessment of
occupational prestige. This survey was made in 2006 by A4,
which is a weekly journal published by the unions. In the
survey, 2,155 randomly selected Danes were asked to place
99 different occupations on a scale from 0 to 10 depending on the prestige of the occupation (A4, 2006). Prestige is
related to the publics perception of an occupations knowledge and norms, but some occupations are better at giving
the impression of having knowledge and norms, and other
factors than knowledge and norms also affect occupational
prestige, meaning that prestige cannot stand alone as an
indicator of professionalism. We combined education and
prestige in a formative index to measure level of professionalism quantitatively by first standardizing education and
prestige so that they had the same mean and standard deviation and then added them together in an index, which was
rescaled to go from 0 to 100. Table 2 shows the exact years of
education and levels of prestige (on the scale between 0 and
10) for the investigated occupations.
The qualitative and quantitative measures of professionalism do, as mentioned, have different strengths and
weaknesses. The quantitative measure (education and prestige) does not depend on researchers judgment and is
very precise (education because formal rules specifies the
exact length of a given education, and prestige because it
is based on 2,155 answers), while the qualitative measure
is less exact. The qualitative measure does, however, have
high measurement validity, while the quantitative measure
(although it has two indicators) does not correspond perfectly to the theoretical definition of professionalism. This
is why we run all analyses with first one measure and then

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52

ANDERSEN AND PEDERSEN

the other; it ensures that the results are similar for very
different operationalizations of professionalism. In order to
make this transparent, the results from both measures of professionalism are reported in the results section. We based our
measures of the PSM dimensions on the short form developed by Coursey & Pandey (2007). Wright & Christensen
(2009, p. 15) found that this short form had a moderately
good fit with the data.
Appendix B presents a factor analysis of the items,
and it indicates that the factors correspond to the expected
dimensions (commitment to public interest corresponds to
factor 1, attraction to policy-making corresponds to factor 2,
compassion corresponds to factor 4, and user orientation corresponds to factor 3 in Table A1 in Appendix B). Cronbachs
alpha for the indexes corresponding to the items belonging to
the different dimensions is between 0.52 and 0.72 (exact values can be seen in Appendix B). We analyze the dimensions
separately and use factor scores from the analysis presented
in Appendix B.
RESULTS
In this section, we present a series of OLS regressions
of the different dimensions of PSM and user orientation.
Hypothesis 1 expects that professionalism does not relate
to commitment to the public interest. As expected, Table 3
shows that professionalism does not systematically correlate
with the level of commitment to the public interest controlled for age and gender. The same result is seen when controls for service area (education, health, or administration)

and sector (public/private) are included. The level of commitment to the public interest is highest for education, and
it is higher in the public sector than in the private sector.
Pedersen & Andersen (2010) discuss this finding. Our interpretation is that the level of professionalism and the level of
commitment to the public interest are not correlated, when
service area and sector is controlled for, because the arguments for expecting a positive and a negative association
neutralize each other, suggesting that professions should neither be seen as pure collective egoists (as suggested by
the Neo-Weberians) or as totally committed to doing good
work (as suggested by the Functionalist approach to professions). It is, however, possible that none of the arguments are
valid. Table 3 shows that there is no substantial difference in
the results using the qualitative or the quantitative measure
of professionalism, suggesting that the findings are robust
concerning the operationalization of professionalism.
Hypothesis 2 expects that a higher level of professionalism is associated with a lower level of compassion. Table 4
confirms this expectation as employees belonging to occupations with a high level of professionalism a have a lower
level of compassion than employees belonging to occupations with a low level of professionalism. Due to multicollinarity, this association is not statistically significant
for the models with interaction terms between professionalism and area, but the coefficients do not change, and
the association does not differ substantially among administration, teaching, and health. Our interpretation is that
professionals are governed by norms rather than emotions,
and that they have been socialized out of being motivated by

TABLE 3
OLS regressions of Commitment to Public Interest (unstandardized regression coef)
Quantitative measure of professionalism

(Intercept)
Age (years)
Gender
(1 = woman)
Professionalism
Service area1 :
Teaching
Service area1 :
Health
Sector
(1 = public)
Interaction:
Teach prof.
Interaction:
Health prof.
n
Adj. R-square
F-value for full
model
1 Reference
0.05

Qualitative measure of professionalism

Model 3-1

Model 3-2

Model 3-3

Model 3-4

Model 3-5

Model 3-6

Model 3-7

Model3-8

Model 3-9

71.67
0.111
0.873

70.812
0.113
1.118

69.26
0.098
1.443

67.840
0.090
1.168

66.864
0.098
1.179

69.53
0.113
1.245

68.94
0.098
1.474

67.42
0.090
1.224

66.44
0.096
1.281

0.006
5.60

0.005
2.701

0.643

0.188
5.555

0.209
2.633

0.490
6.020

0.017

1.545

1.466
5.43

845
0.005
3.032

845
0.004
2.239

845
0.033
6.838

category to service area is administration.


p > 0.01; 0.01 p > 0.001; 0.00 1 p.

845
0.053
8.932

0.025
5.900
1.477

1.468

5.41

1.571
5.44

2.440
5.38

0.086

1.189

0.004

0.226

845
0.054
7.061

845
0.005
2.536

845
0.033
6.848

845
0.053
8.950

845
0.053
6.883

PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION

53

TABLE 4
OLS regressions of Compassion (unstandardised regression coef.)

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Quantitative measure of professionalism

(Intercept)
Age (years)
Gender
(1 = woman)
Professionalism
Service areaa1 :
Teaching
Service area1 :
Health
Sector
(1 = public)
Interaction:
Teach prof.
Interaction:
Health prof.
n
Adj. R-square
F-value for full
model
1

Qualitative measure of professionalism

Model 4-1

Model 4-2

Model 4-3

Model 4-4

Model 4-5

Model 4-6

Model 4-7

Model 4-8

Model 4-9

68.6

70.0

67.6

66.7

66.6

69.6

68.5

.083
5.26

.077
5.08

.079
5.06

.111
5.46

69.5
.083
5.19

.077
5.03

67.4
.081
5.05

.052
8.76

.053
6.90

.055
7.94

.298

1.42
9.05

1.40
7.21

1.039
9.080

5.57

3.637

3.22

6.02

4.11

5.105

3.484

3.46

3.43

3.424

.112
5.63

.109
5.24
.027

845
.030
14.268

845
.031
9.993

845
.090
17.625

845
.096
15.873

.026

.697

.011

.400

845
.094
11.940

845
.030
9.596

845
.090
17.720

845
.096
15.912

845
.094
11.940

Reference category to service area is administration.


p > 0.01; 0.01 p > 0.001; 0.001 p.

0.05

compassion; it is not considered professional to feel rather


than know.
Table 4 also shows that employees working with education have the highest level of compassion. The level is much
lower for administration than for the other two areas, probably reflecting that administrative (anti-emotional) professional norms demand objectivity, lawfulness, and equality.
Public employees have more compassion (as discussed in
Pedersen & Andersen, 2010). The results are robust across
the two measures of professionalism.
Hypothesis 3 expects that high professionalism is associated with low user orientation, and Table 5 shows that
this expectation is confirmed. User orientation is higher for
health, and this corresponds with the professional norms of
health professionals (codified in the medical codex based
on the Hippocratic Oath (Von Staden, 1996) and similar
oaths for nurses (e.g., Lings, 2005). These norms emphasize that health care skills should be used to benefit both
society and the individual users of health services (poor
as well as rich). We also think that user orientation is less
against the norms of health professionals, because they normally treat the patients separately, whereas teachers must
attend to the collective (the class) and ultimately society
(the ultimate user of education). For administration, being
oriented towards the user can be a direct problem for regulation, where the administrator must ensure that the user
does not harm others in society (e.g., environmental regulation) and that equal cases are treated equally. In other words,
our interpretation is that user orientation in varying degrees
is incorporated in the professional norms for the different

occupations. Table 5 also shows a high level of similarity


between the results based on the two different measures
of professionalism, at least for the results concerning the
relationship between professionalism and user orientation.
We had no expectation as to the association between
professionalism and attraction to policy-making, because
countervailing forces could theoretically mean positive
and negative effects, respectively. Table 6 shows that the
association is positive. We suppose that this is due to
the mentioned association between education and political
participation/efficacy, but it is hard to confirm this. Still,
although we do not know the mechanism behind the association, we know now that professionals are more attracted to
policy-making. The interaction terms show that this association is strongest for administration, and the level of attraction
to policy-making is also highest for this area. Again, the
results are stable across the two measures of professionalism (except for the fact that the interaction terms are only
significant for the quantitative measures of professionalism).

CONCLUSION
The literature on the relationship between professionalism
and PSM tends to measure professionalism as individual
identification with professional organizations and to treat
PSM as a unified construct. In contrast, drawing on the
sociology of professions, professionalism in this article is
defined as an occupational variable which refers to the

54

ANDERSEN AND PEDERSEN


TABLE 5
OLS regressions of user orientation (unstandardised regression coef.)
Quantitative measure of professionalism

Downloaded by [Chinese University of Hong Kong] at 02:49 25 February 2015

Model 5-1
(Intercept)
Age (years)
Gender
(1 = woman)
Professionalism
Service area1 :
Teaching
Service area1 :
Health
Sector
(1 = public)
Interaction:
Teach prof.
Interaction:
Health prof.
N
Adj. R-square
F-value for full
model

71.1
.119
3.39

845
.019
9.361

Model 5-2

Model 5-3

Model 5-4

Qualitative measure of professionalism


Model 5-5

Model 5-6

Model 5-7

Model 5-8

Model 5-9

73.7
.114
2.64

73.6
.112
2.43

74.2
.115
2.54

76.3
.113
2.37

76.5
.114
2.44

76.9
.110
2.10

77.6
.113
2.20

78.0
.118
2.27

.052

.056
.219

.005
1.371

.114
2.202

1.65

1.92
.718

1.93
1.915

2.19
5.22

1.453

2.648

.587

2.24

3.486

1.131

2.155

2.248

2.226

2.348

845
.027
8.675

845
.026
5.516

845
.029
5.146

.008

1.056

.096

1.559

845
.034
4.719

845
.032
10.197

845
.033
6.789

845
.036
6.252

845
.039
5.330

1 Reference
0.05

category to service area is administration.


p > 0.01; 0.01 p > 0.001; 0.001 p.
TABLE 6
OLS Regressions of Attraction to Public Policy Making.(unstandardized regression coef.)
Quantitative measure of professionalism
Model 6-1

(Intercept)
Age (years)
Gender
(1 = woman)
Professionalism
Service area1 :
Teaching
Service area1 :
Health
Sector
(1 = public)
Interaction:
Teach prof.
Interaction:
Health prof.
N
Adj. R-square
F-value for full
model

52.0
.133
3.258

845
.008
4.449

Model 6-2

Model 6-3

Model 6-7

Model 6-8

Model 6-9

50.0
.115
2.036

44.4
.092
1.753

47.0
.128
2.388

46.2
.113
1.656

46.1
.113
1.671

41.1
.097
1.564

.053

.069
3.089

.069
3.212

.210
3.984

1.505

2.321
3.68

2.322
3.85

4.03
3.99

5.004

5.132

.341

5.93

6.11

.607

.231

.309

.319

.337

845
.018
3.529

Model 6-6

50.1
115
2.025

845
.019
4.236

Qualitative measure of professionalism


Model 6-5

49.3
.128
2.488

845
.011
4.107

Model 6-4

.215

2.96

.154

-2.15

845
.022
3.411

845
.012
4.443

845
.023
5.011

845
.022
4.176

845
.023
3.490

1 Reference
0.05

category to service area is administration.


p > 0.01; 0.01 p > 0.001; 0.001 p.

degree of specialized theoretical knowledge and the firmness of the professional norms. Furthermore, we argue that
the relationship between professionalism and PSM differs
between the different dimensions of PSM, and the empirical
analysis in this article supports this.
Studying nine different occupations (845 individuals) we
found that professionalism correlates negatively with user

orientation and compassion and positively with attraction to


policy-making. Our argument is that compassion is negatively correlated to professionalism, because professionals
deliver public service based on theoretical knowledge and
professional norms (and not based on emotions). The recipient may be seen as an interesting case which can
and should be handled professionally, rather based on

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PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION

compassion. In line with this, the professional does not draw


energy from helping the individual user, but from applying
the relevant knowledge in order to do a job that meets the
professional norms. If the professionals did not comply with
the professional norms which guide the provision of services, the public may lose its confidence in the professions
knowledge and norms. The job is therefore not necessarily done when the individual user is satisfied, but when the
professional norms are met. Given that we see professionals as members of occupations with specialized, theoretical
knowledge and firm professional norms, the negative correlations between professionalism on the one hand and user
orientation and compassion on the other are understandable.
Attraction to policy-making is positively associated with
professionalism, and our interpretation is that higher education leads to both stronger political efficacy and higher level
of specialized, theoretical knowledge. There seems to be no
association between professionalism and commitment to the
public interest, when service area and sector (private/public)
are controlled for. Additionally, we found substantial differences among health care, education, and administration both
in terms of the level of PSM and in terms of the associations
with professionalism.
These results are robust in terms of being similar for a
quantitative and a qualitative measure of professionalism.
None of the two professionalism measures is perfect, but the
development of new empirical measures of professionalism
based on a conceptual discussion of the recent development
in the sociology of professions can still be seen as one of the
contributions in the article. The qualitative measure of professionalism categorized occupations based on interviews
and existing documents and looked specifically on intraoccupational norms and specialized, theoretical knowledge.
This measure does, however, depend on the researchers
qualitative interpretation, and it is therefore reassuring that
the quantitative measure of professionalism leads to similar results. This measure is independent of the researchers
interpretations, but its measurement validity is not as high as
the qualitative measure, because education and occupational
prestige are only indirect indicators for the degree of theoretical knowledge and professional norms. These indicators
do, however, have a high reliability. As such the measures
developed here have opposite weaknesses and strengths.
The fact that analyses with different measures of professionalism produce similar results indicates that the findings
are robust in terms of not being dependent on the chosen
professionalism measure.
While the major strength of the study is that we empirically investigate the association between PSM and professionalism, using different operationalizations of professionalism and controlling for sector and service area, the
major weakness is that the data are cross-sectional. We hope
that future research will investigate the relationship between
professionalism and PSM using panel data, because this
would shed more light on the causal direction between

55

professionalism and PSM. Concerning generalizability, our


assessment is that although the web-panel is not strictly
representative even for Danish employees we expect to
find the same correlations between professionalism and the
dimensions of PSM and user orientation in other contexts.
Cross-nationally, the same profession (e.g., teachers) may
have different professional norms, and understandings of
for example the public interest may also vary. This may
influence the results, and we hope to see more comparative
research on causes and effects of PSM.
Despite the mentioned limitations, one of the core findings is that professionalism relates differently to the different
PSM dimensions. This supports the claim that PSM is a firstorder reflective and second-order formative construct (Kim,
2011), and that we (in each study) should carefully consider
whether it is most meaningful to treat the dimensions separately or to look at PSM as a unified concept. The results also
indicate that a conditional theory concerning professionalism and public service motivation is necessary. Although we
have found some general trends, the results still indicate that
we can get a better understanding of PSM among professionals if we look at their professional norms and institutional
contexts more closely. This is in line with the institutional
approaches both within the sociology of professions and
within the PSM literature.

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APPENDIX A. SOURCES USED TO CODE


PROFESSIONALISM
Occupation
Researchers

High-school
teachers
School teachers

Pre-school
teachers
Physicians

Health assistants
and nurses
Administrators

Ministerial order on Ph.D. program at the


universities, order no. 18, January 14, 2008
(www.au.dk/da/regler/2008/bek18.pdf).
3 telephone interviews with representatives for
professional organizations.
Vestergaard & Lsmar (2009). Thesis investigating
professionalism of high-school teachers.
12 interviews with teachers, 6 with school
principals, analysis of formal education
(Andersen, 2005)
6 interviews with pre-school teachers
20 interviews with orthopedic surgeons
(Andersen & Jakobsen, 2011), 6 interviews with
general practitioners (Serritzlew & Andersen,
2006)
Kjeldsen (2009)
6 interviews with administrators (Andersen, 2000).
For university educated: Analysis of academic
regulation of law, economy, and political science
studies [studieordninger]. For not university
educated: Web pages for the general office
education [den generelle kontoruddannelse].

APPENDIX B. FACTOR ANALYSIS


TABLE A1
Factor analysis of all items (pattern matrix)
Factor
1

I associate politics with


0.209 0.599
something positive ATP
0.106
0.462
The give-and-take of public
policy-making doesnt appeal
to me (R) ATP
I do not care much about
0.057
0.841
politicians (R) ATP
I contribute to my community
0.476 0.060
CPI
Meaningful public service is very
0.529
0.122
important to me CPI
0.659
0.015
I would prefer seeing public
officials do what is best for the
whole community even if it
harmed my interests CPI
I consider public service my civic
0.738 0.045
duty CPI
It is difficult for me to contain my 0.028 0.012
feelings when I see people in
distress COM
To me, considering the welfare of
0.010 0.032
others is very important COM
0.183
0.034
I am often reminded by daily
events about how dependent
we are on one another COM
The individual user is more
0.060
0.014
important than formal rules
UO
It gives me energy to know that I
0.171 0.036
helped the user/customer UO
If the user/patient is satisfied the 0.043
0.031
job is done UO

0.052

0.029

0.054

0.095

0.020

0.110

0.130

0.034

0.019

0.178

0.077

0.001

0.015

0.066

0.019

0.686

0.019

0.806

0.093

0.369

0.355

0.074

0.605

0.016

0.704

0.053

R: Reversed. Extraction Method: Principal factor. Rotation Method:


Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization. All respondents (not only selected
occupations) are included in the analysis. Cronbachs alpha for shaded
items for factor 1 (0.72), for factor 2 (0.65), for factor 3 (0.52) and for
factor 4 (0.69). ATP: Attraction to policy-making. CPI: Commitment to the
public interest. COM: Compassion. UO: User orientation.