How do public servants perceive the notion of civic virtue?

  • Clare Butler

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Organisational citizenship behaviour has been an active field of research for over three decades with research typically focusing on helpful and sportsmanlike behaviours or, conversely, examining destructive or criminal acts. Between these two is the frequently ignored civic virtue which includes questioning, making suggestions and challenging organisational norms. Civic virtue is the least researched, least performed, and the least popular organisational behaviour with it often being deemed an act of deviancy. Yet importantly, in terms of the transforming public service agenda, it is also the organisational behaviour that links most closely with organisational improvement. In pursuing this under-researched field, interpretivism provides a salient philosophical framework for the operationalisation of the thesis which utilises an in-depth qualitative approach to explore the lived realities of public servants, and seeks to advance the limited knowledge of civic virtue, set against the backdrop of public service citizenship. Using the lens of symbolic interactionism the thesis contributes an incremental advance in research method; specifically projective image elicitation, by using the metaphorical power of contextualised cartoon images to explore individuals’ perception of the workplace and their The thesis proposes a contribution to theory in recommending that public service citizenship promotes a predilection to bifurcate behaviours demonstrated by others and self into the act and underpinning values. Within public services this interpretative process gives precedence to the underpinning values; and promotes an environment where disdained behaviours are pardoned if the underpinning values are deemed honourable. This concept is termed value governance. Drawing on value governance, a model emerged which indicates that public servants predominately enact civic virtue when they perceive their values are seriously contested; otherwise their collectivist tendencies are dominant The discovery of value governance is significant in informing the conception of a dialogic public service citizenship; a citizenship which has its foundation in publicness but which is also able to face the challenges of civicness.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish


    • Civil service
    • Citizenship

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