Original Research

Leadership, management and organisational implications for public service employee well-being and performance

Shanil Haricharan
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 21 | a2080 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v21i0.2080 | © 2023 Shanil J. Haricharan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 August 2022 | Published: 13 March 2023

About the author(s)

Shanil Haricharan, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Orientation: With the significant changes in the organisational context and the nature of work, greater focus on employee well-being is central to the quality of work life (QWL) and effective organisations.

Research purpose: This article examines the complex and dynamic interplay between the multidimensional affective, behavioural, relational and socio-cultural dimensions in mediating employee well-being and organisational performance in a transforming South African provincial government.

Motivation for the study: Theoretical models and public reforms have focused on the formal, transactional and technical aspects in understanding organisational performance and employee well-being, with less attention given to the behavioural, socio-cultural and interpersonal dimensions.

Research approach/design and method: This qualitative study in two provincial government departments with 43 public servants (rank levels 6–15) applied the integral theory-based, four-quadrant model. The Dynamic Inquiry (DI) interview method and inductive thematic analytical processes were used. The Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) assessment reports of the two departments were analysed.

Main findings: The four dominant themes that emerged from this study – social exclusion, leadership behaviours, public service orientation and governance – display complex patterns and relationships related to well-being and performance. Among these are the negative effects of power and bureaucratic cultures; hierarchical, command and control governance systems and dissonant leadership behaviours.

Practical/managerial implications: The results have public policy and practice implications for public governance, management and leadership development, organisational design and culture, and performance management.

Contribution/value-add: By applying an integrated research approach, multiple determinants of well-being and their intermediation were elucidated. The findings offer epistemological and methodological implications for human resource management (HRM) scholarship.


public service; well-being; performance; governance; public leadership; organisational culture

JEL Codes

A10: General

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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