Doing Good Work in a Crisis: Views of Pay and the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Public, Nonprofit, and For-Profit Sectors
The critical efforts of essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis might have important implications for how individuals view government, nonprofit, and for-profit sector workers and their pay. This article explores views of employees’ pay considering three rationales (anticipated judgment, motivation for work, and competency in that work) that might lead to a lower valuation of work in the public and nonprofit sectors (i.e., lower pay rationales), particularly among those who work in the for-profit sector. However, highlighting a concrete way that public and non-profit employees serve the public, such as providing services during COVID-19, might mitigate this negative effect by showing their commitment to public service in an intuitive way. Our survey experiment provides evidence that activating the competency or motivation rationales lowers the likelihood that nonprofit employees are viewed as underpaid among those who work in the for-profit sector when a concrete example of public service is not provided. However, we also find some evidence that an example of public service can help to counteract these effects.