WHY WE SERVE: PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION AND WHAT THE USCIS MISSION MEANS TO ITS WORKFORCE
Aten, Kathryn J.
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Why do people choose to serve with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)? How has USCIS articulated its mission and organizational values since its creation? What mission values do employees believe in versus what USCIS asks of them? This thesis uses public service motivation (PSM) theory and value congruence theory to interpret the alignment of USCIS employee value perceptions with organizational values from 2015 to 2020. An examination of the USCIS mission from 2003 to 2020 equips the reader with a comprehensive picture of its evolution. A qualitative analysis of USCIS employee motivational survey responses captured from 2015 to 2020 provides visibility into employee perceptions of "why we serve." The PSM themes found within employee responses—compassionate humanitarian, public interest servant, upholder and influencer of policy, self-sacrificing public servant—provide insight into employee role perceptions. Research findings found a strong fit between organization and employee before 2018. After a substantial change in USCIS mission values in 2018, the fit between the compassionate humanitarian and the organization wanes. However, other PSM values emerge in employee PSM values, suggesting that the organizational storyline may influence individual perception over time. A call for further research is encouraged for sense-making exercises with the Cynefin framework, post-2020 employee PSM perceptions, and employee retention and organizational fit.
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