Positive Public Service: Turning Purpose Into Progress by Changing How Government Works From the Inside

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Positive psychology research has shown that fostering well-being in the workplace is connected to healthier and more engaged employees as well as improved organizational performance. But government has largely taken a backseat as a subject of study in this field. Over 22 million people are employed in the public sector in the United States alone, warranting closer attention. To that end, in this paper I review relevant positive psychology literature, examine some of the unique attributes of public sector work, discuss an analysis of survey data representing over 600,000 state, local, and federal employees, and present a qualitative study of public servants’ best experiences. I use this information to present strategies to cultivate more fulfilling and impactful work in the public sector. I suggest that instead of focusing on making bureaucracy less bad, we should focus on making good government even better. The field of positive psychology has demonstrated that people’s lives can be full of positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment, and the same should be expected of government work.


positive psychology, well-being, engagement, public service, government, purpose, meaning, prosocial impact, work, job crafting, job design, job satisfaction


Business/Work, Well-being/Flourishing





Date Posted: 29 January 2018