The agreeable bureaucrat: personality and PSM

Madinah F. Hamidullah, Gregg G. Van Ryzin, Huafang Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which public service motivation (PSM) can be explained by the big five personality factors. Design/methodology/approach: Original data are gathered from two online surveys of public service professionals from across the USA. The two surveys employ the same measures of personality traits but different measures of PSM. This was done to test the generalizability of the findings across different operationalization of PSM. Findings: The big five personality factors explain a large share of the variance in PSM, above and beyond basic demographic factors (sex, age and race). Agreeableness has the most consistent association with PSM. Extroversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experience also display positive associations with at least some measures and dimensions of PSM. Research limitations/implications: The two surveys involved somewhat small, non-probability samples of public service professionals. Additional research is needed to confirm the generalizability of these findings. Originality/value: This study contributes to both the theoretical and empirical understanding of the origins of PSM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-595
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 8 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Motivation
  • Organizational behaviour
  • Personality
  • Personnel management
  • Professions
  • Public administration


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