Explaining a Dark Side: Public Service Motivation, Presenteeism, and Absenteeism

Ulrich Thy Jensen, Lotte Bøgh Andersen, Ann Louise Holten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Public service motivation (PSM) has many bright sides, but recent studies also find dark sides, connected to, for instance, higher stress and burnout. However, results on the PSM–absenteeism association are inconclusive. One reason could be that PSM increases presenteeism (going to work even when ill), which in turn increases absenteeism and counteracts—or even exceeds—PSM-based reductions of absenteeism. Based on a three-wave panel study of Danish public and private sector employees, we find a strong positive association between PSM and presenteeism and indications that the PSM–absenteeism link is mediated by presenteeism. The findings suggest that going to work even on days when employees feel ill is a potential dark side of PSM and that it may have long-term consequences for the extent to which employees are absent from their jobs due to sickness. This cautions managers not to expect that high PSM automatically guarantees high performance and low absence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-510
Number of pages24
JournalReview of Public Personnel Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • panel data
  • presenteeism
  • public service motivation
  • sickness absenteeism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Explaining a Dark Side: Public Service Motivation, Presenteeism, and Absenteeism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this