Dr. Jaclyn Piatak is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She holds a PhD in Public Administration from American University. Her research interests include public and nonprofit management, volunteering, and social policy. Her work focuses on understanding and managing public service, both at an organizational and individual level. Her work appears in public and nonprofit management journals, such as the Journal of Public Administration Review and Theory and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Dr. Piatak’s professional experience includes working in the federal government in the U.S. Department of Labor and at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Public Service Delivery
Human Resource Management
Service Delivery Networks
Public Service Motivation
Behavioral Public Administration
The United States saw mass layoffs and unemployment during the Great Recession, where jobs have been slow to recover especially in the government sector. Research on cutback management became widespread in the late 1970s into the 1980s and several researchers have called for attention to be reignited to determine what lessons can be applied to the Great Recession and beyond. However, little attention is paid to the influence of cutbacks on employees. How do layoffs impact public personnel? Using nationally representative employment data, this study examines sector differences in job loss, advance notice, job mobility, and sector switching. In addition to distinctions across job sectors, differences within the government sector across federal, state, and local employees are explored. Findings raise several questions for research and practice regarding the ability to recover staff in a timely manner, the diversity of the organization, and the capacity to cope with future crises.
The digital divide persists; a quarter of the U.S. population is unconnected, left without Internet access at home. Yet volunteer recruitment is increasingly moving online to reach a broader audience. Despite widespread use, little is known about whether the lack of digital access has repercussions on connections offline in the community. We examine the influence of access on volunteering across four critical aspects—structure, time devoted, level of professionalization, and pathways to volunteering. We find home Internet access has an independent influence on volunteering even after controlling for socioeconomic status. Those with access are more likely to volunteer, formally and informally, and are more likely to become volunteers because they were asked. However, digitally unconnected volunteers devote more time. Nonprofit organizations and government agencies should be strategic and inclusive in their volunteer recruitment efforts to ensure they recruit qualified and dedicated volunteers rather than rely solely on digital recruitment strategies.
Goal conflict is one of the greatest challenges to effective public service delivery networks. Scholars offer management prescriptions, but to what extent can a diverse set of network actors be managed? Data from a comparative case study approach suggest that informal accountability forces play a greater role than formal authority in preventing and mitigating goal conflict. Goal conflict appears to be weakest when network administrative organizations are responsible for both vertical network management and direct service delivery. In terms of reducing goal conflict, networks that manage both vertically and horizontally may be best equipped to achieve goal congruence.
Public opinion features prominently in policy research because it sets bounds on the definition of policy problems and acceptable policy solutions. We contend that public opinion is also important for setting bounds on the level of government at which policy hazards are regulated by shaping preferences for uniformity of regulation and, relatedly, preferences for centralization. We offer a theoretical argument for why risk creates pressures for uniform standards and examine the extent to which preferences for uniformity and centralization are the product of fairly stable individual‐level predispositions (e.g. partisanship and ideology) versus more fluid attitudes like perceptions of risk, which vary in response to crises, new information, and issue framing. We test our argument using survey data in the policy domain of food safety and find that individuals who anticipate greater risk from food‐borne illness prefer more uniform food safety regulation, which translates into preferences for federal‐level policymaking. Our results imply that contextual circumstances and strategic communications that influence risk perceptions can create not only generalized public demand for more regulatory policy but specific demand for uniform, centralized regulation.
This article examines the history and formation of Medicare and Medicaid to determine how America’s two major public health insurance programs came to have such vastly different implementation structures. Drawing upon theories of social construction and path dependence, findings show how the programs were set on divergent paths. This article also explores how the intergovernmental nature of Medicaid has promoted inequities, both between programs and among recipients across states. The findings show how social construction can influence the policy tool chosen and how the implementation structure impacts the individuals whom these programs are intended to serve for years to come.
With the retirement of the baby boomers looming and the growing number of opportunities to serve the public interest in broader ways than working in government, how dedicated are today’s public employees? This study examines the job sector changes of nonprofit and government employees compared with for-profit employees during both stable and unstable economic conditions. Sector switching within the government sector across federal, state, and local government employees is also examined. Findings show no sector differences during stable economic conditions, but illustrate federal government and nonprofit employees are more likely to move into the for-profit sector during times of economic instability. This study highlights the impact of tough labor market conditions on employment decisions. Nonprofits’ reliance on labor donations may no longer be sufficient, and public managers should tailor their recruitment and retention strategies to suit the level of government.
With the rise of third‐party government, the lines between the sectors have blurred as has accountability. Public service delivery failures can erode government legitimacy and trust, but who do citizens blame when something goes wrong? To answer this question, we employ an experiment to see whether citizens hold local governments and private contractors equally accountable for service delivery failure. We also examine how they expect the employees to be held accountable. Results demonstrate that blame is attributed to those providing the service directly. However, the introduction of a budget shortfall lessens the blame assigned to the contractor, and implicates the city even when the service is provided indirectly through a contract. Finally, citizens are less in favour of terminating the employment of both public and contract employees under budget shortfalls. Findings suggest that if citizens are given information about the context and who is in control of the service, they attribute blame accordingly.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the behavioural consequences of public service motivation (PSM) and how motivation relates to an individual’s call to serve both inside and outside of the workplace. More specifically, this study examines whether and how PSM relates to prosocial behaviours – volunteering and giving – and career ambitions to work in the government or non-profit sector among public affair graduate students. Design/methodology/approach – Logistic regression is used to examine the PSM link using a composite of the 40-item scale, each of the six dimensions – commitment to the public interest, civic duty, social justice, attraction to policymaking, compassion, and self-sacrifice – and the five-item scale from the Merit Principles Survey. The analyses draw upon data from a unique online survey of 122 graduate students in Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy programmes. Findings – The results indicate that people with higher levels of PSM are more likely to want to work in public service and volunteer. However, mixed results were found for the relationship between PSM and giving charitable donations and career ambitions to work in government and no link was found for career ambitions to work in the non-profit sector. Originality/value – This paper answers calls to examine the dimensions of PSM and examines Perry’s (1996) original conception. The results provide practical implications for human resource managers as well as non-profit and public managers in recruiting and retaining employees and volunteers.
In light of high unemployment and declining volunteer rates, this study examines the complex relationship between time, employment, and volunteering. Are unemployed people more likely to volunteer due to newfound time or to obtain some benefit? Alternatively, are the unemployed less likely to volunteer due to their loss of social ties or feelings of insecurity? A framework tying together four competing theories—opportunity cost, exchange, social ties, and attachment—into positive and negative influences is put forth and tested using pooled U.S. data from 2003 to 2013. The duration of unemployment emerges as a key factor, where volunteering decreases over time. Findings suggest organizations should recruit volunteers from untapped and under-represented groups, especially because the supply of volunteers is not endless. For example, unemployed volunteers devote more time but are less likely to receive an invitation to volunteer. Dedicated individuals may not volunteer simply because no one asks them.
The face of public service continues to evolve as government copes with increasingly complex societal problems and changing means of service delivery. Public managers are now challenged to oversee programs that cut across sectors and organizational boundaries, and people carrying out the government’s work can be found across all sectors—government, nonprofit, and for-profit. Unlike those in previous generations, younger individuals see opportunities to engage in public service in nonprofit and for-profit organizations, which has undoubtedly affected the ability of government agencies to recruit and retain those with public service values. Have opportunities to engage in public service across sectors made differences between public, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations irrelevant? Are public and nonprofit employees any different from those in for-profit organizations, especially when it comes to public service values? Understanding why individuals engage in public service is arguably more important than ever as social capital and civic engagement decline. This article draws upon the “other-oriented” aspect of public service and builds upon the work of Brewer (Brewer, Gene A. 2003. Building social capital: Civic attitudes and behavior of public servants. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 13 (1):5–26.) and Houston (Houston, David J. 2006. “Walking the walk” of public service motivation: Public employees and charitable gifts of time, blood, and money. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16 (1):67–86.; Houston, David J. 2008. Behavior in the public square. In Motivation in public management: The call of public service, eds. James L. Perry and Annie Hondeghem, 177–99. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press.) to examine the impact of sector on one area of prosocial behavior: volunteering. This article employs data from the September Volunteer Supplement of the 2011 Current Population Survey to examine how both formal and informal volunteering varies across sectors—public, nonprofit, and for-profit—as well as across levels of government—federal, state, and local. This study finds that government and nonprofit sector employees tend to volunteer more than their for-profit sector counterparts, but there are important nuances when taking work schedule, levels of government, and additional measures of volunteering into account.
Multiagency collaboration is widely used in contemporary service delivery systems. This article explores the interpersonal interactions within collaborative systems, among subsystems, and among organizations. Our focus is on illuminating the informal mechanisms that facilitate collaboration, joint production, coordination and integration of service delivery, and sustained effort. Such interactions generate unofficial expectations, discretionary behaviors, and provider “communities” that can ameliorate or exacerbate problems of interorganizational networks where collaboration is appropriate or desirable. We use a multiple case–study approach to explore the dynamics of informal accountability among individuals working within county-based children’s service systems in three states. We find informal interpersonal dynamics nested in combinations of vertical and horizontal ties with mixed administrative authority arrangements derived from both formal and informal accountability relationships. These data reveal shared norms, facilitative behaviors, informal rewards and sanctions, and challenges that create the dynamics of informal accountability. Informal accountability is shaped by the prevalence of relationship building and champion behavior as facilitative behaviors, discernible tension between the operation of formal and informal accountability systems, a gap between the rhetoric of collaboration and the reality of collaborative service provision, differences in informal accountability dynamics across hierarchical levels within service delivery systems, and the critical roles of street-level caseworkers in informal accountability.
There has long been concern that shortages sometimes develop and persist in specific occupations, leading to inefficiencies in the U.S. economy. This book will help readers understand why occupational shortages arise, how to know a shortage when it is present, and to assess strategies to alleviate the shortage. As the authors show, many economists, including several U.S. Nobel Prize winners, have studied occupational shortages, and this volume builds on their work.
Johnson, J.M., Piatak, J.S., & Ng, E. (2017). Managing Generational Differences in Nonprofit Organizations. In Word, J.K.A. & Sowa, J.E. (Eds.), The Nonprofit Human Resource Management Handbook: From Theory to Practice. New York: Routledge.