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Why some people prefer to work in the public sector

The 4 personality traits of future public-sector employees

Many people choose to work in governmental jobs instead of the private sector. Among the reasons behind this choice is the fact that jobs supported by governments provide a sense of security. What makes some people choose this career path?

In a recent article published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, ESADE Visiting Professor Marc Esteve provided evidence that sheds light on why some people are motivated to work in the public sector.

In order to better understand why some people choose this career path, Esteve and his team collected information on core psychological personality traits from 320 undergraduate students. “Our analysis reveals that a person’s motivation to work in the public sector is strongly influenced by core personality traits,” says Esteve.
The study examined 6 major psychological traits based on the HEXACO model, a popular method used in psychology to explain an individual’s core personality. According to this model, people can be characterized by 6 major personality traits, which are honesty-humility, emotionality, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience.
The 4 traits of future public-sector employees

The findings show that employees who choose to work in the public sector are driven by 4 major personality traits: 1) honesty and humility, 2) emotionality, 3) extroversion and 4) openness to experience.
The data reveal, however, that a person’s motivation to work in the public sector is not driven by agreeableness (characteristics such as tolerance and forgiveness) nor by conscientiousness (understood as diligence, organization and planfulness).

1. Honesty

According to the report, honesty and humility is a fundamental characteristic observed in people who choose to work in the public sector and serve their societies. The researchers argue that the professional standards for civil servants working in public services demand high levels of both honesty and humility.
“Our findings suggest that individuals with high levels of honesty and humility will be more likely to undertake jobs that benefit the public domain,” says Esteve.
The researchers clarify that this doesn’t mean that employees will always remain honest once they start working in the public sector; the report simply tracks the likelihood of people choosing this career path.

2. Emotionality

People with high levels of emotionality are more predisposed to empathize with other people’s problems, and as a result seek to help them. The findings show that people interested in working in the public sector are also driven by emotionality.
“Emotions also play a key role in public sector motivation. People who pursue career paths in public organizations are often driven by altruistic behavior to help others despite not receiving clear benefits from doing so,” says Esteve.

3. Extroversion

Extroverts are also more likely to choose a career path in the public sector. The findings reveal that extroversion is a strong predictor of people’s tendency to choose jobs that require good interpersonal skills.

“People with high levels of extroversion are more interested in carrying out activities in favor of society, both because they perceive the problems as closer to them and because they are interested in the personal recognition that contributing to this will bring,” explains Esteve.

4. Openness to experience

People who are open to experiences and new ideas are also more likely to work in governmental jobs. According to the report, individuals with high scores in this personality trait are particularly interested in helping to solve the problems of society.

Public sector motivation ad fonts: Personality traits as antecedents of the motivation to serve the public interest
van Witteloostuijn , Arjen; Esteve Laporta, Marc; Boyne, George
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Vol. 27, nº 1, 01/2017, p. 20 – 35

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Are core customers as important as new ones?

IRONMAN, one of the better known brands in sports, faced a critical business challenge: The enormous equity among followers was clearly underexploited and the business was searching for ways to better capitalize on this value. The new strategy would need to accommodate core customers as well as new ones, a challenging mission as the two groups have different expectations. Did the brand succeed or fail in its attempt?
In a case study taught in the classrooms of ESADE and published in Harvard Business Review, Associate Professor Marco Bertini reveals how IRONMAN faced this challenge and what the company learned from the unexpected scenarios it encountered in the process.

ESADE Knowledge: Why did you choose this business challenge?

Marco Bertini: One of my former students in the MBA program, an avid triathlon participant, took on the task of analyzing IRONMAN’s pricing strategy. His insights made me realize that there was a story to tell, which ultimately evolved into this case study. IRONMAN is a very strong brand with an interesting mix of dedicated, loyal customers: some even go as far as tattooing the IRONMAN logo on their body. ”

“Although I believe it is the third most important brand in sports, the company behind it was not doing its job at turning all this goodwill into healthy revenue”.

EK: What did the brand do to improve this?

MB: At some point in this long story, a venture capital firm bought the organization and they started doing all sorts of things: more races, different race formats, new sponsorship deals, a large (and in many cases dubious) merchandise program, etc. Many of these initiatives were not received very well, and core customers started to complain to the company was taking it too far – that the pursuit of revenue was diluting the ethos of the brand. The general question that the case study asks is, How should a company that banks on its relationships with customers go about growing and exploiting a brand at the same time? These two critical activities are certainly intertwined: if you don’t get the balance right, you are either “giving away” equity or trivializing it.
EK: So what happened?

MB: This case in particular is about a tipping point in the evolution of the company. In previous IRONMAN races, fans who wanted to participate had to physically go to the location of the race one year in advance and apply in person. People complained about this and the company saw this as an opportunity to introduce a loyalty program, called IRONMAN Access, that would allow participants to apply online and secure a spot by paying around $1,000.

EK: How do you run this case study in the classroom?

MB: I teach it to ESADE MBA, MSc and Executive Education students. Basically, the students are asked whether or not they support the Access program and why. The split usually is 50-50. Students in favor of running the loyalty program see the tangible value of signing up online: it literally saves time and money relative to travelling to the race location a year in advance and standing in line for the chance to get a spot. Rationally, this makes perfect economic sense.
The point of this case study is that your pricing decisions have to be consistent with the brand, because otherwise you run the risk of destroying value. If you think about pricing as something that is detached from the brand, a lever that is there purely to capture a value that is there and is fixed, then you can get yourself into trouble.

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Cómo un buen jefe influye en el desempeño de los empleados

Tu jefe ¿contribuye a mejorar tu desempeño o lo está echando a perder?

¿Has tenido alguna vez un mal jefe? Probablemente sí, puesto que las investigaciones confirman que los buenos jefes abundan menos que los malos.

Un mal jefe puede hacer que sus empleados se sientan fatal y echar a perder los puestos de trabajo. En cambio, un buen jefe no solo puede contribuir a mejorar el desempeño de sus empleados sino también ejercer un impacto positivo en su carrera, después incluso de que abandonen la empresa.

“Si dice que los trabajadores jamás se marchan de las malas empresas, sino que huyen de los malos jefes”, señala Kathryn Shaw, profesora de Economía de la Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Los trabajadores que tienen un buen jefe son más productivos. “Los datos de nuestra investigación muestran que los buenos jefes tienen un gran efecto en mejorar el desempeño de los empleados de sus empresas, y también que reducen las bajas laborales”, explica la profesora Shaw.

Según sus investigaciones, los rasgos comunes que presentan los buenos jefes de todas las empresas son los siguientes:

- Los buenos jefes proporcionan a sus trabajadores una visión de sus carreras y hacia dónde irán.

- Dan sentido sobre cómo su trabajo contribuye al desarrollo de la empresa

- Inspiran a sus subordinados

- Proporcionan formación a sus empleados

KATHRYN SHAW
Titular de la Cátedra Ernest C. Arbuckle de Economía de la
Graduate School of Business de la Universidad de Stanford

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El arte de no hacer

Hace unos meses, entrevisté a Fan, una estudiante de posgrado china candidata a hacer prácticas profesionales en un país en desarrollo. Ella quería ir a África, y le dije: “En África hay muchos prejuicios hacia los chinos. Si te envían allí, ¿qué vas a hacer para luchar contra estos prejuicios?” Fan contestó: “Nada. Simplemente, trabajar al servicio del proyecto que tenga asignado”. Quedé gratamente sorprendido, e informé a favor de su candidatura.

En el caso de Fan, la razón para decidir no hacer algo (luchar directamente contra un prejuicio) es que es mejor no alimentar debates estériles o perjudiciales. Pero hay otras situaciones en las que también es mejor no hacer algo, por razones diversas.

• No hablar en un encuentro porque es mejor escuchar y dejar hablar a los demás.
• No solucionar problemas a un niño / joven para que aprenda a solucionarlos autónomamente – ¡a pesar de que fracase!
• No aplicar tratamientos médicos agresivos a personas que sufrirán para que se les alargue una vida que vivirán con mala calidad.
• No aceptar una promoción laboral porque desestabilizaría mi vida y además yo no podría realizar el encargo apropiadamente.

En todas estas situaciones, el no hacer no se deriva de ignorar la situación (mirando hacia otro lado); o de la pereza que lleva a dejar las cosas para más adelante; o de la ingenuidad de esperar que el problema se resuelva solo; o del miedo a las consecuencias de la acción. Es fruto de haber analizado todas las acciones posibles -incluyendo el no hacer nada- y haber optado por esta última opción. Es la paradoja de no hacer nada como forma de actuar.

Pero para llegar a esta decisión, los razonamientos racionales están íntimamente penetrados de actitudes como la humildad (no soy todopoderoso, debo madurar mis acciones), la esperanza (hay que esperar el tiempo propicio para actuar) o el respeto (hay que preservar la libertad de los demás y dejarse ayudar por ellos).

La humildad, la esperanza y el respeto nos remiten a la confianza en que la acción de fuerzas o agentes que operan más allá de mi alcance es mejor que mi propia acción. Es en este sentido que el arte de no hacer puede ligar con la tradición taoísta del wu wei.

En efecto, la sabiduría del wu wei (literalmente, no acción, sin esfuerzo, crecimiento) se entiende como “el arte de no hacer nada”. La planta crece por wu wei: no porque se esfuerce por crecer, sino porque su crecimiento se deriva de las leyes de la naturaleza. Cuando las personas actúan según normas que no están de acuerdo con las leyes de la naturaleza, se equivocan y son infelices. El wu wei es pues el arte de dejar que la naturaleza siga su curso o ir con el flujo de la naturaleza…

Al cabo de unos meses de la entrevista con Fan, coincidimos en la ceremonia de graduación del posgrado: había sido seleccionada, la habían enviado finalmente a Vietnam (donde también hay prejuicios contra los chinos), y había disfrutado mucho de las prácticas. Además, acababa de encontrar trabajo en Barcelona y me presentó a su novio (apuesto) catalán. Quizá es que por aquí empezamos a apreciar también el wu wei…

Autor: Josep F. Mària, Jesuita y Profesor titular de ESADE.

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