Factors Affecting Job Performance in Public Agencies
Articles empirically examining job performance in the public sector are scant. As a result, in this article a theoretical research model is developed to examine job performance, and it is subsequently tested on state government workers. The findings are clear: Role ambiguity negatively affects employee job performance; mission contribution is fully validated (i. e. employees who directly contributed to the mission of the agency reported higher performance); government employees reported higher performance levels when they believed agencies received enough funding to fulfill their goals; and individual job performance was higher when employees believed that their agency spent appropriated funds efficiently. The implications these findings have for public agencies and officials are thoroughly discussed.KEYWORDS: funding, job performance, job satisfaction, mission contribution, public service motivation nce the early 1900s, several work-related processes and theories have been proposed that were designed to help organizations get the most output from their workers (e. g. , march & simon, 1958; mayo, 1933; taylor, 1911). because individual worker productivity is difficult to measure in some sectors (e. g. , government), these job performance models have mainly been applied to employees in private sector organizations where outputs are more easily quantified (bohnet & eaton, 2003).As a result, few researchers have empirically studied job performance in public sector organizations. his article assists scholars, as well as human resource personnel, supervisors, and government officials, by empirically examining how several individual, environmental, and job-related factors affect job performance in government agencies. specifically, a theoretical research model is developed that predicts job performance in government organizations and is subsequently tested on new York state government employees. this model’s unique contribu- s Public Performance & Management Review, Vol. 34, no. 2, december 2010, pp. 139–165. 2010 m. e. sharpe, inc. All rights reserved. 1530-9576/2010 $9. 50 + 0. 00. doi 10. 2753/Pmr1530-9576340201 139 140 PPmr / december 2010 tion to the field of public performance management is that it includes employee attitudes about funding, mission contribution, and the fairness of the agency’s reward system—all of which have been absent in public job performance studies. the objective is, therefore, to determine the relation between job performance and several aspects of employee attitudes. Review of Literature and HypothesesJob performance is a term used to depict how well an employee performs his or her work-related duties. Performance is important to workers and employers because it inevitably influences decisions regarding promotions, terminations, merit increases, and bonuses. because so much is riding on this aspect of organizations, individual job performance has been studied extensively by administrative theorists. beginning in the early 1900s, Frederick taylor (1911) argued that organizations could increase worker productivity by identifying and standardizing the most efficient movements needed to perform a task. espite the fact that this process contributed heavily to productivity studies by demonstrating that tasks could be precisely measured, it has often been criticized because it focused on “mechanization” rather than on the human side of the organization (march & simon, 1958). in other words, taylor’s theory was too narrow and did not include other elements that could affect productivity. two decades later, elton mayo and his associates conducted a study at the Western electric Hawthorne plant. n so doing, they discovered that worker productivity was affected by managerial decisions, the social interactions of workers, and the physical environment (mayo, 1933). in the end, mayo and his associates successfully moved the discussion beyond individual tasks and motivated numerous others to examine individual and organizational factors more thoroughly.For the most part, job performance studies, such as those just mentioned, have been conducted on private sector organizations that are heavily profit driven and, thus, are dependent on productivity. he public sector, however, has been undergoing a series of reforms since the 1990s, with increased productivity being one of the chief objectives (osborne & gaebler, 1992). naff and crum (1999) were the first to examine those individual characteristics associated with the job performance of government employees. in that study, they analyzed a federal government survey and found job performance was affected by public service motivation, race, gender, grade level, and job type. While this study was enlightening, it was limited because it did not include any organizational factors. ore recently, another study examined several factors and their association with job performance (bright, 2007). in this article, bright examined the effect of employee characteristics as well as public service motivation and person–organization fit on caillier / FActors AFFecting Job PerFormAnce in Public Agencies 141 the job performance of local government workers. the findings revealed that job performance was associated with person–organization fit, or the worker’s congruence with the organization’s purpose.Public service motivation, on the other hand, was not associated. because neither study included organizational factors, it was unclear which organizational factors affected individual performance in the public sector. As a result, i introduce a theoretical research model in this study that includes several key factors related to job characteristics, the work environment, and individual attributes. THEORETiCAL RESEARCH MODEL the theoretical research model is depicted in Figure 1. the underlying rationale of this model is that employee attitudes about job haracteristics, the work environment, and individual attributes have an effect on their job performance. Although this model includes some conventional factors, it also contains several factors that have not been included in the job performance literature.For instance, several scholars have found that job performance is associated with public service motivation, job satisfaction, role ambiguity, and employee demographic variables (Alonso & lewis, 2001; bright, 2007; naff & crum, 1999). thus, these factors are included in the model. n the other hand, worker perceptions about organizational funding, mission contribution, and fairness are conspicuously absent from public job performance literature as well as job performance literature at large. As a result, my theoretical model illustrates the relation between these employee attitudinal factors and job performance; that is, employee attitudes toward several factors, especially funding, mission contribution, and fairness, may be expected to have an effect on how well they perform their duties. in this regard, this model makes a significant and original contribution to the organizational literature. he goal of this theoretical model is, therefore, to further the understanding of managers, human resource personnel, and theoreticians regarding employee performance, so that they are better able to know how to increase worker productivity. to accomplish this objective, i examine three new employee perceptional factors within the work environment context of public organizations: agency funding, adequate funding, and efficiency.As demonstrated in the model, i expect attitudes toward agency level of funding and perceptions regarding adequate funding to have a direct and positive effect on job performance. ecause government workers are assumed to be loyal stewards, employee attitudes toward the efficient use of agency funds are also expected to positively impact job performance. moreover, i also develop and explore job characteristic factors pertaining to mission contribution and fairness here. these factors are expected to have a positive impact on job performance. immediately following is a discussion of each job characteristic, work environment, and individual attribute factor in the theory. 142 PPmr / december 2010Job characteristics and outcomes • Job satisfaction (+) • Role ambiguity (–) • Mission contribution (+) • Fairness (+) Work environment • Agency funding (+) • Adequate funding (+) • Efficient use of funds (+) • Participation (+) Individual attributes • Public service motivation (+) Job performance Employee attitudes Control variables • Ethnicity • Sex • Job level • Age • Years in current position Figure 1. Theoretical Research Model caillier / FActors AFFecting Job PerFormAnce in Public Agencies 143 JOB CHARACTERiSTiCS AnD OuTCOMES the link between job performance and various job characteristics has been explored by researchers.Job characteristics are those factors directly related to the duties and tasks that employees perform at work. two job characteristics associated with job performance are role ambiguity and mission contribution. on the other hand, job characteristics are also assumed to affect job satisfaction directly. therefore, job satisfaction is an outcome of job characteristics, and it is also related to job performance. Job Satisfaction An often-studied facet of organizational behavior is job satisfaction, which indicates how satisfied employees are with their current duties.As early as the 1920s, scholars commonly assumed that job satisfaction was related to performance (Petty, megee, & cavender, 1984); that is, satisfied employees were expected to be more productive than dissatisfied ones. As a result, human relations theories have often been expressed as an effort to increase productivity by satisfying the needs of workers (Vroom, 1964). despite the earlier widespread acceptance of this belief, the hypothesis has not been consistently validated by studies that have examined the relation between job satisfaction and performance (brayfield & crockett, 1955; iaffaldano & muchinsky, 1985; Petty et al. 1984).For example, Petty et al. performed a meta-analysis on previous studies and found a positive correlation between job performance and job satisfaction, while iaffaldano and muchinsky conducted the same type of analysis and concluded that the correlation was very low. because it is logical to assume that satisfied workers will extend an extra effort on their job, the hypothesis is as follows: Hypothesis 1: Job performance will increase as job satisfaction increases. Role Ambiguity role ambiguity occurs when an employee’s job-related duties are unclear. cholars have consistently shown that an association exists between role ambiguity and job performance (Abramis, 1994; Jackson & schuler, 1985; tubre & collins, 2000). the implication of this finding is that workers perform better when they are less confused about the duties that are involved in carrying out work assignments. therefore, it is important that duties and tasks be thoroughly communicated by human resource personnel and managers. despite this consistent finding, however, some disagreement exists concerning the strength of this association.For instance, earlier studies pointed to a weak association between role ambiguity and job performance (Abramis, 1994; Jackson & schuler, 1985), while a more recent study reports a robust relation (tubre & collins, 2000). because scholars have found a significant negative relation, the second hypothesis is as follows: 144 PPmr / december 2010 Hypothesis 2: Job performance will decrease as role ambiguity increases. Mission Contribution in any agency, employees can make different levels of contribution toward the organization’s mission. n the one hand, a caseworker makes a substantial contribution to an agency’s mission of assisting unemployed citizens when the caseworker helps someone find a job. on the other hand, employees in a supportive role, such as mailroom clerks, may not feel as if they are making the same contribution because they are not directly impacting the agency’s purpose of assisting unemployed citizens. moreover, sometimes an employee’s position has nothing to do with it, as a connection is lacking between the work that employees perform and their agency’s purpose. hus, the question then becomes, “What will happen to workers’ job performance when they do not contribute directly to an agency’s purpose? ” According to the mission contribution hypothesis that is developed here, public servants will be less motivated and less likely to expend extra effort when they perceive their contributions are not directly impacting their organization’s mission. For instance, government employees place a high value on performing work that benefits society, which is the generic mission of most government agencies (e. g. , rainey, 2003).As a result, employees can be motivated to work harder when they perceive that their tasks contribute to the fulfillment of this mission (Wright, 2007). When employees have a different perception—that is, that they either contribute very little or do not contribute at all to the organization’s mission—they will be less motivated to work hard due to the difference between their work expectations and actual duties. considering the aforementioned scenario, the assumption is that the case worker would perceive a higher mission contribution than the mailroom clerk, resulting in the former being more productive than the latter. mployees would also be presumed to work harder in those agencies in which their tasks are clearly connected to the organization’s mission than they would in those organizations in which their tasks are not as clearly connected. therefore, the following hypothesis is averred: Hypothesis 3: Job performance will increase as the level of contribution toward an agency’s mission increases. Fairness Fairness concerns the pay and promotional opportunities available to employees, and the conventional hypothesis is that it has a direct effect on job performance.
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