Maybe They’re Not So Different After All: Personality and Job Satisfaction Among Government and Non-Government Workers


  • Christopher A. Cooper Western Carolina University



Personality, Job Satisfaction, Behavioral Public Administration


It is becoming increasingly clear that individual personality traits explain a variety of outcomes in public management. There is, however, no extant evidence about whether personality traits vary between public and non-government workers or whether personality affects job outcomes in distinct ways across sectors. This study, therefore, seeks to fill this gap in the literature. Using a series of bivariate and multivariate tests on a large sample of Americans employed in the public and non-government sectors, this study examines the relationship between employees’ personality and their level of job satisfaction. In the study, I find that a five-factor model of personality can help explain variation in job satisfaction of public and non-government workers. I also find that workers employed by public sector organizations display similar profiles to those who work in non-government sectors. Thus, the effects of personality on job satisfaction is not contingent on employment sector. These findings offer important lessons for our understanding of public personnel management, public service motivation, and the intersection of psychology and public administration.

Author Biography

  • Christopher A. Cooper, Western Carolina University

    Christopher A. Cooper is Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. His work on state and local politics and behavioral public administration has appeared in a variety of journals, including Public Administration Review, Administration & Society, American Review of Public Administration, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and State and Local Government Review.






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