Work Values & Job Attitudes: A Study of Gen Y in Public Sector.

AuthorChaudhari, Sushama


Demographics of workplace have seen a sea change by the turn of 21st century with employees belonging to different generations working together. The current workforce is therefore known as Multi-Generational as it consists of all the generations--from Baby Boomers (1) to Generation X (2) (Gen X), and Generation Y (3) (Gen Y) (Rai, 2015), and they co-exist in both public as well as private sector organizations. Although public sector organizations in India have knowledgeable and highly experienced personnel, a large number of them are approaching retirement age. Hence, in order to fill the hierarchy gaps being created in the near future, organizations are in the process of recruiting bright and young officers in large numbers to overcome the need for competent workforce in future.

As compared to their older counterparts, young officers (Gen Y) are independent (Crampton & Hodge, 2009), fast and energetic, and have high expectations from their organizations in terms of salary and flexibility in work environment (Wailand, 2015). Public sector organizations in India, on the other hand, are bound by rules and regulations set by the government and they function at their own pace and modus operandi. Therefore, understanding the work value preferences of Gen Y, determining the factors impacting their job attitudes, and identifying what motivates them to join and continue working with public sector organizations are of critical importance.

Gen Y in Public Sector

Studies have documented various reasons why Gen Y is attracted to careers in the public sector. According to Ng and Gossett (2013), Gen Y who prefer public sector jobs, prioritize work-life balance, opportunities and avenues for higher education, and scope for contributing to the society as important career goals. In India, public sector organizations are considered more stable as these are supported by the government even during difficult economic downturn periods as compared to the private sector organizations (Jain & Bhatt, 2015). Hence, Gen Y in India prefer working with public sector organizations for stability and security, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, having better leave structure (Jain & Bhatt, 2015), and less workload and stress as compared to the private sector organizations (Mohapatra et al., 2017).

However, public sector organizations are facing tough competition due to privatization, liberalization, and globalization. Hence, to be commercially viable and competitive, these organizations must perform their best, and in order to be successful, they must ensure that the young recruits become productive employees. Given the various reasons for Gen Y joining public sector and the need for public sector organizations to have young employees, it becomes imperative as well as interesting to understand the work values, commitment level, and other job attitudes (like job satisfaction, turnover intention, and felt obligation) of Gen Y as it would define their workplace behavior and impact the overall organizational success.

Work Values

Values that get satisfied as a result of employee's participation in the work are called work values (Brown, 2002). Most of the researchers have identified three types of work values:

  1. Intrinsic--Intangible work outcomes that can be satisfied during the course of work like growth, higher achievement, positive career outcomes (Choi et al., 2013).

  2. Extrinsic--Tangible work outcomes, like remuneration and job security (Papavasileiou & Lyons, 2015).

  3. Social or Interpersonal--Values related to emotions, feelings, and social experiences, like esteem, interpersonal relationships, and contribution to society (Papavasileiou & Lyons, 2015).

    Ros et al. (1999) have suggested a fourth value:

  4. Power and Prestige--Values that indicate personal superiority, like achievement, status, recognition, independence.

    Research on Gen Y in public sector has emphasized their preferences for a liberated career, work-life balance, and extrinsic over intrinsic rewards (Ertas, 2015). Likewise, Yadav and Chaudhari (2018) established that extrinsic work values are more important than intrinsic values for Gen Y working in public sector. However, Perry et al. (2010) postulate that public sector employees are motivated more by intrinsic rewards. Results of a recent study by Yadav and Chaudhari (2020) have indicated that intrinsic, extrinsic, and prestige/power work values are the most important elements for Indian Gen Y to make a career decision. However, their preference for job security and healthy work-life balance attracts them towards public sector jobs (Yadav & Chaudhari, 2020). Satyawadi and Ghosh (2012) postulated that public sector employees in India value self-esteem and pride, job involvement, and progressing up the career ladder. Chawla et al. (2017) posited that Gen Y in India prefer working with organizations that are in alignment with their educational qualifications, aptitudes, and career aspirations.

    Like work values guide an employee's preferences for work and work environment, organizations look forward to productive and committed employees for the overall organizational success. Therefore alongside work values, affective commitment is another important aspect which organizations look at for understanding the workplace behavior of young employees.

    Affective Commitment

    Commitment to remain with an organization is characterized by different mindsets or motives. When employees remain with the organization because they want to do so, it is called affective commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991). Since commitment is an intention to persist in a course of action, lack of it among public sector employees can inhibit the organizational effectiveness. This is because lower commitment will lead to reduced effort and also increased absenteeism on part of the employees (Lediju, 2016). As Indian public sector organizations invest considerable time and resources into recruitment and training processes, it is important for these organizations to instill and elicit strong commitment from the employees in order to achieve stability, reduce attrition and minimize the recruitment and training costs. However, commitment to an extent is also dependent on the attitude towards job.

    Job Attitude--Job Satisfaction

    Researchers have found different results regarding job satisfaction among public sector employees. Some indicate that job satisfaction is higher in public sector organizations because of job security, healthy work-life balance, assured and consistent pay hike, and steady career progression (Markovits et al., 2007; Agarwal & Sajid, 2017), whereas others indicate it to be lower. In fact, the results of a study by Wang et al. (2012) show that the public sector employees have low extrinsic job satisfaction (because of rigidity in work process, less autonomy in work, and lower salary) but a high intrinsic j ob satisfaction because of their being in public service. Therefore, it is crucial for the public sector organizations to keep their young employees satisfied at work so that they do not leave the organization after a few years of service, because, if the Gen Y do not plan to stay with the organizations for long, the replacement and knowledge costs are going to be very high (Ertas, 2015).

    Job Attitude--Turnover Intention

    According to Sousa-Poza and Henneberger (2004), "turnover intention reflects the (subjective) probability that an individual will change his or her job within a certain time period." Researchers like Wang et al. (2012) and Agarwal and Sajid (2017) have recognized that turnover intentions of public sector employees are lower than private sector employees' because public sector offers employment that is more secure and has low conflicting roles. However, Ertas (2015) established that public sector employees from Gen Y are more likely to leave their jobs and have a desire to switch to another government job than their older counterparts. To the Gen Y, j ob satisfaction matters the most and as it decreases, turnover intention increases. Therefore, it is important for organizations to consider values, needs, and preferences of young employees to ensure a satisfied and permanently productive workforce, which may otherwise lead to increased attrition.

    Job Attitude--Felt Obligation

    According to the social exchange theory, employees comprehend that if the...

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