Understanding Public and Nonprofit Managers' Motivation Through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory

Chung An Chen, Barry Bozeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Contemporary public and nonprofit management research has disproportionally emphasized the importance of intrinsic motivation (especially service motivation) but has given comparatively little attention to non-intrinsic motivation. According to self-determination theory (SDT), non-intrinsic motivation moves from identified motivation, introjected motivation, external motivation, to amotivation, depending on their disparate levels of self-determination. The authors examine empirically whether public managers differ from nonprofit managers on these intrinsic and non-intrinsic motivational styles. The findings show that public managers exhibit stronger service motivation, identified motivation, external motivation, and amotivation when compared to their nonprofit peers. In addition, public managers' strong external motivation and amotivation compromise their overall level of self-determination, suggesting that they may be less motivated by their work requirements than are nonprofit counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-607
Number of pages24
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Public-nonprofit comparison
  • amotivation
  • extrinsic motivation
  • intrinsic motivation
  • self-determination index
  • self-determination theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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