The field of public administration received an independent identity in the late nineteenth century. It was recognised as different and independent from its mother branch ‘political science’ by the then US President Woodrow Wilson. Since then many disciplines like management, sociology, psychology and anthropology have tried to influence the field. The interdisciplinary impact on public administration was felt the most with the coming of behavioural studies. Behavioural studies focussed on the human behaviour rather than the inanimate system and its rules. It studied the impact of different human emotions, communications and habits on the structures and functions of public administration. Thus psychologists, anthropologists which were also recognised as motivation thinkers, leadership theorists had a great impact on public administration, especially its personnel management systems.
Administration becomes efficient when the structures of the system are well placed. Thus optimum hierarchy, smooth communication and technological aid have all enhanced efficiency. But in the end, the functionaries that carry out administration and the people who are beneficiaries of administration are humans. Human behaviour cannot be as rational as inanimate systems and their emotions, moods, habits and prejudices greatly affect their work life and performance. It has been observed that when people are satisfied, happy and motivated their performances have been better. This makes it necessary to study the human behaviour in the context of improving the efficiency of administration and also giving the employees a sense of job satisfaction.
In this view, the morale and motivation of the administrators is a crucial factor. Many scholars have studied the effect of high or low morale of the personnel on the overall administration. Abraham Maslow, F. Herzberg have tried to study the human needs that motivate people. Starting from the basic needs of food and shelter they range up to the needs of recognition, fame and further up to the need of self-actualisation which is the craving for perfection or excellence in a field. When an organisation, be it private or government facilitate the fulfilment of their personal as well as work goals harmoniously there is a sense of belongingness and loyalty towards the organisation. The urge to work more, perform better and excel with greater responsibilities motivates the employee. This is automatically reflected by way of enhanced work performance.
Changes in job profiles, enrichment of work, new challenges, achievable targets are other factors that motivate people. Monetary incentives, work bonuses as suggested by the management thinkers of 1920s are still valid measures of keeping the spirits of the employees high. Some negative means of motivation also exist. They include fear of disciplinary action, demotions, pay cuts and counselling. However, these should be rarely used in order to let employees work in full potential and in creative and fearless manner. It has been observed by scholars like Mc. Gregor, Likert and others that when employees are over-supervised, keenly monitored, excessively threatened with disciplinary action and given detailed instructions about work their inherent ability to innovate, take risks and excel is reduced. They get bored with work and show signs of stagnancy.
It is not surprising to notice that in the government organisations the negative forms of motivation are used more frequently than the positive ones. Monotonous work profiles, lack of new challenges and fixed salaries for varying outputs have been responsible for a low morale among the government servants. Narrow rulebooks with little discretion and little scope for creativity has hampered innovation. The fear of disciplinary action in case of risk-taking and accidental losses that may get exposed in RTI enquiries, CAG scrutiny have further made administrators risk averse. There is no protection for honest yet risk bearing decisions. A low morale of government servants is passed on to the general public as delays, unfriendly customer interface and inefficiencies.
Good leadership is needed for extending the right forms of motivation. There have been debates about the traits of leadership and if leaders are born or if leadership skills may be acquired, what styles of leadership are suitable in different situations and so on. But it is a fact that a good leader is of prime importance for any team to achieve their goals. Even in government working leadership needs to be effective at every step, be it the political representatives heading the secretaries or the district collector and even the sarpanch. The leader should be able to share the vision of the people and unite it with the goals of the team. For example, a sarpanch should be able to relate the dreams of a healthy community with the Swacch Bharat initiatives and encourage people to build and use toilets. Transformational leadership can really motivate employees to give their best by recognising, appreciating and rewarding quality performance. It can also help correct those whose performances are not up to the mark without necessarily threatening or without disciplinary actions. Supporting honest errors and giving space for improvement is greatly needed in the government sector. Effective and harmonious leadership in the hierarchy will be helpful for this. Effective leadership in government, such as IPS Mahesh Bhagwat, IPS Kiran Bedi and T N Seshan have set examples that when leadership is effective then even the output is outstanding.
The private sector has realised the importance of behaviouralism in human resource management. The public sector is also now recognising this and is now adopting soft skill training for its employees. Attitude building, enhancing emotional intelligence even in the police force, and other initiatives to keep the morale of employees high is being undertaken on a war footing by the government. It is but true that no matter how rational and structurally perfect the systems become, the effect of human behaviour can never be eroded and hence good research in shaping the right behaviour for public service is the need of the day.