Am i a public servant or am i a pathogen? Public managers' sector comparison of worker abilities

Chung An Chen, Barry Bozeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Political rhetoric in the United States is rife with condemnations of public sector workers. The assertion that public sector workers are less creative, talented, or autonomous than those working in businesses pervades in both academic studies and public opinions. Facing constant criticisms, do public managers also perceive that governmentworkers are less able than their private sector peers? If so, and more importantly, does the perceived inferiority ofworker abilities shake their confidence, thereby undermining their work attitudes? The present study employs social comparison theory to answer these questions. Based on state government managers' responses in the United States, the results indicate that a clear majority of public managers perceive public sector inferiority with respect to worker creativity, talent, and autonomy. The findings also show that perceived inferiority is related to lower job satisfaction, job involvement, and pride in working for the current organization. Based on the findings, we provide suggestions to both researchers and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-564
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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