Encouraging civil servants to be frank and fearless: Merit recruitment and employee voice

AuthorChristopher A. Cooper
Date01 December 2018
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/padm.12548
Published date01 December 2018
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Encouraging civil servants to be frank and fearless:
Merit recruitment and employee voice
Christopher A. Cooper
School of Political Studies, University of
Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Correspondence
Christopher A. Cooper, School of Political
Studies, University of Ottawa, 120 University,
Ottawa, K1N 6N5, Canada.
Email: christopher.cooper@uottawa.ca
Recruiting civil servants on the basis of merit is believed to improve
the quality of governance because it increases the bureaucracys
expertise, leads bureaucrats to develop distinct preferences and
encourages them to candidly voice their opinions to others. Yet, to
date, the reason why merit recruitment positively affects employee
voice remains theoretically vague and has received little empirical
scrutiny. This article advances this research by theoretically speci-
fying why merit recruitment positively affects employee voice, and
by empirically testing this association with survey data measuring
the perceptions of federal civil servants in Canada. Controlling for
several additional factors believed to influence employee voice, the
results from various multivariate regression models show a robust
and statistically significant association between merit recruitment
and fear to voice a dissenting opinion. The more civil servants
believe that merit recruitment is high, the less they fear reprisal for
expressing a dissenting opinion to their superiors.
Those who move up through the system, and those who are given greater responsibility, and are
moved to what would be more favourable positions are more likely those who would go with the
flow, rather than those who would give feedback that is not consistent with what a minister would
want to hear. (Retired public servant from New Brunswick, Canada; Canadian Broadcasting Corpora-
tion 2014)
Prime Minister, I am not here to tell you what you f---ing want to hear. I am here to tell you what you
f---ing need to hear. (Secretary Tony Ayers to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser; cited in
Waterford 2016)
1|INTRODUCTION
Isolating bureaucratscareers from the political influence of government is a key component of good governance. A
number of studies suggest that hiring and promoting personnel on the basis of merit, rather than considerations of the
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12548
Public Administration. 2018;96:721735. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/padm © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 721

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT