Personality Traits, Organization Science and Burnout Among Athletic Trainers

A recent article in the Journal of Athletic Training investigated the relationship between personality traits and self-reported burn-out among college trainers.

In short, Jessica Barrett from the University of Connecticut and her co-authors report that personality traits do not predict burnout to a significant extent. They used the Big 5 Personality Inventory to measure personality traits of some 100 college trainers. Only neuroticism shows a weak positive relationship with burnout. Agreeableness and extraversion, two other big traits do not affect self-reported level of burnout, i.e. a mental state that “occurs when work stresses become overwhelming”.

The article is interesting because it demonstrates how the Big 5 concept is used beyond Psychology. In recent posts I try to make a point for Behavioral Public Administration (BPA). Jessica Barrett and her co-authors provide us with an example from which PA researchers could learn from.

And they also provide us with a direct link between Sports Science and Public Administration: Namely they conclude that “organizational-level factors may play a greater role in determining burnout in athletic trainers than individual-level factors such as personality.” So now it is Organizations Science’s turn!

(Pictured above: Indiana Hoosiers Memorial Stadium, Bloomington IN)

Article Citation:

Jessica Barrett, Christianne M. Eason, Rhyan Lazar, and Stephanie M. Mazerolle (2016) Personality Traits and Burnout Among Athletic Trainers Employed in the Collegiate Setting. Journal of Athletic Training: June 2016, Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 454-459.


Innovative Russian Civil Servants (Part 4 / 4)

This is the fourth and final part (4/4) of my Open Talk on innovative behavior and Russian Civil servants at Higher School of Economics (HSE) Day 2016 in Moscow’s Gorky Park.

Hypothesis Testing

I use this data and statistical techniques to study how motivation, job satisfaction, age, working experience relate to innovative and error-correcting behavior (outcome variable).

PSM positively correlated with innovation motivation

Results show that public service motivation is positively correlated with innovation motivation. I will gloom over technical details; estimation results suggest that an employee with a high, but not the highest level of public service motivation, exhibits innovative behavior.

For simplicity let us focus on very strong innovative behavior. Let’s take an average respondent, 42 years old female, 7 years of working experience. The only feature we vary is the level of PSM, from very low to very high. Results show that it is unlikely that an average civil servant with very low PSM is very innovative, the chance is 41 %. But with a high PSM the chance of innovative behavior is much bigger, around 70 percent. The figure also shows that too much PSM is not good for innovation. An average respondent with a very high PSM has a lower chance, some 60 % of heavy innovation.

Power motivation fails to achieve significance

In contrast, the self-reported level of Power motivation fails to achieve significance throughout models. My initial expectation was that power motivated civil servants put less emphasize on innovation. But this assumption does not stand the test of reality.

Job satisfaction positive impact

The results also show that job satisfaction has a positive impact on intense innovation motivation.

Encouragement to innovate

Also encouragement to innovate by management (five-choice-outcome) has a positive impact on intense innovative behavior.

Take Aways

Happy civil servants

What can governments and agency heads do to promote innovation in Public Administration? Provide a sound working environment; happy civil servants are more keen to fix errors. Satisfied civil servants are creative civil servants

Training and ethical leadership

Innovative activities also require ethical civil servants with a notable level of public service motivation. Agency heads and governments should emphasize such in-house training; university has to promote also ethical values.

Encouragement & Signaling

And we learn that encouragement seems to enhance innovative behavior. Signaling: Employees receive signals that change is appreciated.


Behavioral Public Administration

Public Administration plays an essential role in everyday life of Muscovites, and community members around the globe.

In my talk I first laid out that running a government agency successfully requires hierarchy, coordination of activities, and standard operating procedures.

The core essence was to demonstrate that beliefs and attitudes of civil servants do play a role for their administrative actions. This makes a strong point for a new strand of research, called Behavioral Public Administration.

Gorky Park

Getting back to Gorky Park (pictured above) I do not ask for another innovation, but a small evolutionary change: sell the ice cream at a lower price.

Thank you


Innovative Russian Civil Servants (Part 3 / 4)

This is the 3rd part (3/4) of my Open Talk on Innovation and Public Service Motivation that I delivered at HSE Day 2016, at 8th of September in Moscow’s Gorky Park (pictured above)

Leningrad region

Moscow is not Russia, people usually acknowledge. What is the broader picture, beyond the capital?

In spring this year I was able to survey almost 4,000 local civil servants in Leningrad region. I administered an online questionnaire; participation was voluntary and fully anonymous. I asked respondents a series of questions about personal beliefs and attitudes, job satisfaction, and working experience. My intention was to learn about the level of innovative behavior and how it relates to three types of motivation.

Three types of motivation

The first motivation is called Public Service Motivation. People with a high level of PSM are willing to serve community members even at their own expense. The concept is very famous in Public Administration; it was developed in the 1990ies (Perry 1996, Lin & Perry 2015).

Other people give more weight to job security, and a stable income and working routine. I call this Security Motivation, or loss aversion, because it’s important to them not to lose social status, or entitlements.

And yet individuals seek to exercise power over others. Working in civil service to them is a mean to exercise power and to gain social status. I call this power motivation.

Elbow room vs. SOPs

So my argument is that personal attitudes make a difference in how civil servants perform their job. But I mentioned that public bureaucracy heavily relies on rules and standards. SOPs exactly tell the public official what to do in a particular situation, limiting the autonomy of public officials for the sake of uniform services. How can personal attitudes matters in such an environment?

Yes, they can: Administrative professional are always given a certain level of flexibility in implementing policy programs. And within this elbow room / leeway of operators the attitudes, beliefs and motivations of civil servants make a difference in how they do their job.


I received responses from some 1,600 civil servants. The average respondent was a 42 year old female mid-level public officer with 7 to 15 years of working experience.

Russian local Civil servants self-report a very high motivation to correct errors and innovate. The mean value of the variable over all participants was 4.1 (on a 1 to 5 scale), above the scale midpoint.

Russian civil servants also self-report a high level of PSM. The answers of seven questions are put together to measure PSM. Again the highest possible value is 5; the mean value of all respondents in 4.3.

The level of power motivation and security motivation respectively is lower compared to PSM, but still remarkable. The variable measuring power motivation has a mean value of 3.7 which is much lower compared to the mean value of the variable measuring public service motivation. The variable measuring security motivation (loss aversion) has a mean value of 3.8, above the scale midpoint and similar to Power motivation mean value.

Job satisfaction / Empowerment

Civil servants report a high level of job satisfaction. And most of them also report that their agency offers them opportunities to develop professional skills.


Innovative Russian Civil Servants (Part 2 / 4)

This is the 2nd part (2/4) of my Open Talk on Innovation and Public Service Motivation that I delivered at HSE Day 2016, at 8th of September in Moscow’s Gorky Park.


The job of any public administration is to do something: The job of Мосгорпарк is to run and maintain the parks and recreational areas in the City of Moscow, and to develop them. Moscow offers its residents more than a dozen big parks, covering more than 100 sq. km. Gorky Park is the most popular among them, at par with Sokolniki, according to 2012 ratings.

Mosgorpark was founded only in 2011; as a branch of the Ministry of Culture of Moscow’s City Government. Its ambitious mission statement is to “make Moscow convenient for all”; the annual budget for doing so is some 8bn rubles (equals some 110m euros) in 2015 and 2016 (down from 11bn in 2014).

Given its mission statement and budget, Mosgorpark employees few own permanent staff. The official staff number is 70 employees, including the agency director Marina Lyulchuck, and four executive directors. When the agency was created in 2011, most public administrators came to their position because of their excellence in other professional fields, such as architecture, landscaping, and event-management (Interview with agency head Marina Lyltchuk, http://moscowtorgi.ru/news/gorodskoe_hoziaistvo/1495/, retrieved 2016-09-07).

Error-correcting and innovative behavior

Routine jobs

Running and maintaining Gorky Park – this seems to include a lot of routine jobs, e.g. cleaning up the bins, planting flowers, fixing broken benches, and providing a safe environment for visitors.

Even baseline performance requires innovation

But every organization not only has to get day-to-day routine work right. Even achieving a baseline level of performance, touching the bottom line of expectations, from time to time requires some innovation.

It is not enough to clean up the bin in Gorky Park every morning. As an agency head or executive director you have to come up with “new ways of doing things” (Fernandez and Moldagiev 2013) from time to time.

Simon & March

This is something two of the founding fathers of modern Public Administration have emphasized more than 50 years ago. The first one was Herbert A. Simon, a Nobel laurate; the second was James G. March; in 1958 they co-authored a book called “Organizations”.

Create mindset

New ways of doing things – this is just another term for innovation. Visitors demand events, new attractions for kids. To keep up with these growing demands requires a creative mindset. And it requires employees with a high level of innovation motivation. This is what makes a top-performing organization.


Let put this idea more generally: Civil servants exhibit two types of behavior:

  • The first type of behavior is error-correcting behavior. To a varying degree public servants try to detect and fix small errors in everyday working routines.
  • The second type of behavior is innovative behavior. Public Administration heavily relies on rules, or standard operating procedures. SOPs help civil servants to take a decision in standard situation. But SOPs do not support public managers in non-standard situations. In non-standard situations civil servants to a varying degree try to come up with new ways of doing things.

An example of innovative mindset: (‘A lot of families with kids are visiting the park. But it is inconvenient for them to use adult toilets, and wash-bowls. Let’s install wash-bowls for kids.’)

The case of Gorky Park demonstrates that both error-correcting and innovative behavior has positive effects for community members.


Innovative Russian Civil Servants (Part 1 / 4)

On September 8, 2016 Higher School of Economics celebrated annual HSE Day in Moscow’s Gorky Park. I delivered an Open Talk on the relationship between Innovation and Public Service Motivation. Here is the first of four parts (1/4) of what I said:

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for your interest in Public Administration, Innovation and Russian Civil Servants. Gorky Park is an excellent location to talk about Innovation and Civil servants.

The Three Parachute Tower

Just have a look to the marble-colored twisted tower (pictured above).

When I saw it for the first time two weeks ago, I initially thought it was a new look-out platform. I was really excited, took my camera and raced over there – just to learn that you cannot climb it up. Залезать на Башню – нельзя!

From a plate nearby I learned that actually this is a mock-up model of a funfair attraction from the 1930ies. 80 years ago bold ordinary Muscovites did parachute jumping from the platform at the top. There were three pre-installed parachute – so it assumed the name Three Parachute Tower. According to some sources this Soviet bungee jumping became one of the major attractions in Gorky Park.

I do not know what happened to the tower after the Great Patriotic War. But in 2015 a mock-up model was put in front of Gorky park main entrance as a New Year’s Three. And people liked this very special Ёлка.

This anecdote about three parachutes, a Ёлка and a mock-up model serves as an excellent example of innovative behavior in public administration. It is an example of how Gorky Park managers come up with new ideas of how to offer Muscovites a sound recreational area.

Basic Terms


The Three Parachute Tower serves as an example of innovative behavior in Public Administration.

An innovation is an idea, program, or policy that is new to the organization adopting it (Reference). Innovative behavior means to come up with new ways of doing things.

Public Administration & Bureaucracy

Gorky Park is run by a government agency, Mosgorpark.

Another term for government agencies is bureaucracy. By bureaucracy we usually understand the work of civil servants in Public Administration. Public Administration is also a science, a science that explains “what government agencies do, […] why they do it” (James Q. Wilson 1989), and how they do it.

Government agency

The job of any government agency is to do something: Public Administration and civil servants are providing public goods and services. We need such services like law enforcement, public transport, or parks, so we are in need bureaucratic organizations. We are need of coordinated activities of public officials because a single individual usually cannot provide a public service for a large community own its own, even if she is the most intelligent person with a strong will and power.

You can maintain your own Дача, but you will fail to run Gorky Park on your own.

There are a lot of things do in a community like Moscow. And so there are a lot of government agencies, in Moscow, in Russia, and in almost any country around the globe. E.g. police departments, schools, Mosgortrans (running public buses and trams), Mosmetro (running the subway system), and Мосгорпарк.


This is what I do as an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at HSE: I am analyzing what government agencies do, how they do it, and why. Today I would like to share with you some new results about Innovation and Russian Civil Servants.