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The impact of bounded subadditivity on administrative behaviour among public and private workers

Belardinelli, Paolo, Bellé, Nicola and Cantarelli, Paola (2021) The impact of bounded subadditivity on administrative behaviour among public and private workers. Public Administration, 99 (4). 679 - 693. ISSN 0033-3298

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Identification Number: 10.1111/padm.12710


We use a mixed-methods sequential explanatory design to explore whether and how bounded subadditivity, and the resulting certainty effect, may lead public and private employees to prioritize their activities in ways that are suboptimal for their organizations. In a randomized controlled trial, private sector workers were more likely to join a project to which they were able to provide a small contribution that would turn the probability of success into certainty rather than an alternative project in which their participation would make success twice as likely but not certain. This behaviour, which is consistent with the principle of bounded subadditivity, was not observed among public workers in our sample, who did not show any preference for either project. A qualitative inquiry suggests that the observed difference in susceptibility to bounded subadditivity between public and private employees resonates with public service motivation, self-determination theory and identity economics.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Date Deposited: 11 May 2021 16:39
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 01:30

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