Framework 1: Public sector values

Brad C. Anderson

As this section will show, there is a broad array of values that guide human behaviour. Societies are complex, and this complexity is represented in the network of values societies honour.

It is impractical (and perhaps impossible) to list every value that every society pursues. Instead, this textbook presents two frameworks that researchers have developed to categorize values. The first is a framework for public sector values, and the second is a framework for political values.

That this textbook presents these two frameworks does not imply they are universal in every culture. Nor does it mean these frameworks are the only ones through which to understand values. They are presented to begin a discussion on the variety of values active in society. In life, the onus is on you to learn about the social settings in which you live and work to identify the values people pursue.

A Framework of Public Sector Values

Torben Beck Jørgensen and Barry Bozeman studied public sector publications from a variety of countries. From these sources, they developed an inventory of values pursued by these nations’ public sectors.[1] The following sections summarize the values they observed.

Note, however, this and later studies focused predominantly on European and Anglo-Saxon cultures, though they did include Turkey, South Korea, South Africa, and the United Nations in the following studies.[2] The values they saw reflected those cultures and may inadequately express values that different cultures honour. Other cultures and even sub-groups within a culture may pursue different values entirely. The values described below may be a useful guide, but they are not a replacement for taking the time to understand the unique values prevalent in the social settings in which you operate.

The values they observed fell into seven categories:

  • Contribution to society
  • Transformation of interests to decisions
  • Relationship between administrators and leaders
  • Relationship between administrators and the environment
  • Intraorganizational aspects of administration
  • Behaviour of employees
  • Relationship between administrators and citizens

Contribution to Society

The category of contribution to society contains several values, including:

  • The common good (public interest, social cohesion)
  • Altruism (human dignity)
  • Sustainability (voice of the future)
  • Regime dignity (regime stability)

Transformation of Interests to Decisions

Several values are active when transforming peoples’ interests into decisions.

  • Majority rule (democracy, will of the people, collective choice)
  • User democracy (local governance, citizen involvement)
  • Protection of minorities (protection of individual rights)

Relationship Between Administrators and Leaders

The following values guide the relationship between administrators and leaders.

  • Loyalty (accountability, responsiveness)

Relationship Between Administrators and the Environment

These values reflect the relationship between administrators and their operating environment.

  • Openness-secrecy (responsiveness, listening to public opinion)
  • Advocacy-neutrality (compromise, balancing of interests)
  • Competitiveness-cooperativeness (stakeholder or shareholder value)

Intra-organizational Aspects of Administration

The following values inform intra-organizational aspects of administration.

  • Robustness (adaptability, stability, reliability, timeliness)
  • Innovation (enthusiasm, risk-readiness)
  • Productivity (effectiveness, parsimony)
  • Self-development of employees (good working environment)

Behaviour of Employees

The following values guide the behaviour of employees.

  • Accountability (professionalism, honesty, moral standards, ethical considerations, integrity)

Relationship Between Administrators and Citizens

These values inform the relationship between administrators and citizens of society.

  • Legality (protecting rights of individuals, equal treatment, the rule of law, justice)
  • Equity (reasonableness, fairness, professionalism)
  • Dialogue (responsiveness, user democracy, citizen involvement, citizen’s self-development)
  • User orientation (timeliness, friendliness).

Not all nations, cultures, and institutions pursue all values equally. For example, research shows the Canadian public sector places a high priority on the importance of openness; South Korea does not. On the other hand, the South Korean public sector emphasizes the value of robustness more than Canada.[3]

People may operate under specific values in many organizational contexts, but they will never explicitly state those values. They may have never thought about values and act unaware of the values that are unconsciously guiding them. In other instances, people may state they operate according to one value, but their actions suggest they are pursuing different values. Thus, you may need to intuit their values through their deeds and clarify them through dialogue.


In British Columbia, Canada, hospitals in major metropolitan areas suffered from overcrowding and congestion. Wait times in emergency rooms skyrocketed while patients lined hallways because the number of rooms was insufficient.

In response, the government instructed senior managers of hospitals to focus their efforts on ‘decongestion’ (that is, moving patients through the hospital quickly to reduce the number of patients in hallways).[4]

  1. Looking at the list of values above, which values are implied in the directive to focus on decongestion? (Hint, several values are operating, not just one)

  1. Beck Jørgensen, T., & Bozeman, B. (2007). Public Values: An Inventory. Administration & Society, 39, 354–381.
  2. Beck Jørgensen, T., & Sørensen, D.-L. (2013). Codes of Good Governance: National or Global Values? Public Integrity, 15(1), 71–96.
  3. Beck Jørgensen, T., & Sørensen, D.-L. (2013). Codes of Good Governance: National or Global Values? Public Integrity, 15(1), 71–96.
  4. Anderson, B. C. (2019). Values, Rationality, and Power: Developing Organizational Wisdom--A Case Study of a Canadian Healthcare Authority. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


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Framework 1: Public sector values Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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