Innovative work behaviour in knowledge-intensive public sector organizations: the case of supervisors in the Netherlands fire services

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Studying innovative employee behaviours within knowledge-intensive public sector organizations (KIPSOs) might seem an odd thing to do given the lack of competitive pressures, the limited identification of the costs and benefits of innovative ideas and the lack of opportunities to incentivize employees financially. Nevertheless, KIPSOs require innovations to ensure long-term survival. To help achieve this goal, this paper explores the role of supervisors in supporting innovative work behaviour (IWB) by considering the unique challenges of KIPSOs and the conditions and characteristics of IWB in this context. Based on our rich qualitative data of a single case study in the Netherlands Fire Services, we demonstrate the ability of public-sector supervisors to engage employees in innovative behaviours. On the downside, implementation failures and a lack of radical innovation projects seem to be the result of loosely coupled bottom-up and top-down innovation projects and decentralization in the KIPSO which requires situational leadership that emphasizes networking activities and lobbying with public managers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-398
JournalInternational journal of human resource management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2017



  • IR-101696
  • METIS-317483

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