Date of Award

8-10-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Public Management and Policy

First Advisor

Gregory B. Lewis

Second Advisor

Gordon A. Kingsley

Third Advisor

Christine H. Roch

Fourth Advisor

John C. Thomas

Abstract

Public organizations regularly face financial challenges associated with tough economic times, governmental funding decisions, or other types of organizational decline or turbulence. Managers respond to these challenges through cutback management, defined as organizational change “toward lower levels of resource consumption and organizational activity” (Levine, 1979, p. 180). This dissertation assesses the consequences of cutback management practices on public work motivation at various organizational levels. The first chapter examines how executives respond to austerity through specific cutback strategies and tactics, as well as the impacts that these measures have on executive perceptions. The next chaptertests how personnel reductions and related cuts to training, development, and diversity management impact public employees in the federal service. The final chapter builds from the results of Chapter II to examine whether state-level perceptions of human resource development quality affect individual-level motivation among workers in state public health agencies. Taken together, the findings from every chapter provide implications for cutback management research in public administration. First, managers’ preferences to cut back office functions in order to maintain front line activities (Chapter I) conflict with employees’ preferences to receive high-quality opportunities for training, development, and other human resource management (HRM) functions (Chapters II and III). While the findings in Chapter II suggest that personnel reductions (e.g., hiring freezes, reductions-in-force, early retirements) may have a slight direct impact on employee motivation, the reduction of HRM opportunities resulting from cuts has a much more noticeable impact on motivation. Previous research (e.g., Levine, 1984; Shafritz, Russell, Borick, & Hyde, 2017) underscores that training and development opportunities are often most attractive areas to apply cuts when austerity occurs, though this work suggests that public managers evaluate the potential impact those cuts may have on the perceptions and well-being of employees. The concluding chapter offers prescriptions for implementing cuts in ways that can minimize the harms of cutback management on executive and employee perceptions.

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