Bureaucracy and public employee behavior: A case of local government

Mary K. Feeney, Leisha DeHart-Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Government reinvention advocates assert that less bureaucratic work environments will spark higher creativity, more risk taking, and greater productivity in public employees. Although government reinvention remains a topic of interest to scholars and practitioners alike, these particular arguments lack empirical support. In response, this article tests the relationship between different forms of bureaucratic control (formalization, red tape, and centralization) and reported employee perceptions and behavior in local governments. Analyzing mail survey data from a study of the employees of four cities in a Midwestern state, this article finds that employee responses to bureaucratic control are not as straightforward as reinventionists expect. Different types of bureaucratic control are related to distinct employee responses, and sometimes these responses are the very behaviors that reinventionists seek to trigger by reducing bureaucracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalReview of Public Personnel Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Bureaucratic control
  • Centralization
  • Formalization
  • Government reinvention
  • Red tape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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