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Administrative Issues Journal

Abstract

In today’s economic climate, government is now considered by many to be the “employer of choice.” However, employers at all levels of government may eventually lose their recent gains in the war for talent, as the economy improves. Accordingly, it is important to explain how public sector managers viewed the relative advantages and disadvantages of government employment before the economic downturn along specific parameters, including opportunities for women and minorities, managerial autonomy, and employee talent and innovativeness. This paper assesses these views for state-level public managers across a broad range of public services, using survey data that preceded the economic downturn. Specifically, it examines how their past public and private sector career experiences, controlling for their contemporaneous government work experiences, affect their views of the public and private sectors. The study emphasizes career experiences not because past work experience are the only or the most important predictors of sector perceptions generally, but because career trajectory may be the most important consideration for developing strategy for response to government workforce dynamics once the economy improves. Thus, the findings are explained in terms of the related processes of workplace socialization and attitude formation and change, which see public and perhaps also private sector occupational norms and expectations and experiences, past and present, amalgamating to render personal values conducive to favoring one sector over the other. The importance of sector perceptions for human resources management and for broader government workforce concerns as the economy recovers are discussed, as well theory development regarding the career trajectories of public managers.

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