Abstract for: Zombies in Civil Service: Why the conceptual edifice of public administration creates a motivational trap in Brazil

The paper presents a model that integrates Self-Determination Theory and Organizational Justice Theory with the goal of explaining the persistent low levels of motivation among Brazilian civil service workers. Starting from the exogenous influence of cultural dimensions that characterize Brazilian society – low levels of interpersonal trust and tolerance of ambiguity, and high levels of power distance –, the model represents their combination with the Weberian framework for public administration to explain how the drivers of intrinsic motivation cannot fully develop in public agencies in the country. Particularly, two loops explain the motivational trap that captures novice civil servants: the futility of control loop, by which the high level of control embedded in the Weberian framework saps workers’ autonomy, and the erosion of human capital loop, that leads to insufficient development of managerial capabilities in public agencies. The paper presents also the test of policies aiming at overcoming the motivational trap.