How You Work or Why? The Persistence of Altruistic Work Efforts as a Function of Mission Match—a Real-Effort Experiment

Bedrosian Center Research Seminar

The Bedrosian Center funds several grants for USC Price faculty research on governance issues. Preference for the awards is given to research focused on collaborative governance, relationships between governance and planning, and government accountability issues. As a condition of the grant, each principal investigator is asked to give a presentation of his or her findings.

Resh_WilliamDr. William G. Resh joins us today for a talk exploring the notion that individuals who identify more highly with the missions of their organization are more likely to persist under undue expectations.

Dr. Resh explores the notion that individuals who identify more highly with the missions of civil society organizations for which they perform are more likely to persist in altruistic work efforts in the face of unreasonable performance expectations. In other words, does “mission match” lead to persistent individual initiative despite negative feedback? First, he will discuss the relative constancy of unreasonable performance expectations in the delivery of social goods and their potential impact on employee behaviors. Second, he will discuss the importance of intrinsic motivations to individual initiative in public and nonprofit organizations. He then describes a real-effort experiment he conducted to test the persistence of altruistic individual initiative under conditions of unreasonable performance expectations. Dr. Resh finds that mission advocacy induces an individual to go beyond their expected role (as defined by extrinsic incentives), whereas intrinsic public service motivations moderate the relationship between mission match and altruistic individual initiative. This work informs an oft-proposed, but inadequately tested, proposition in studies of intrinsic motivations in the delivery of social goods. Complementary research and potential directions  will also be discussed.