Goals and Bureaucratic Decision-Making: An Experiment

Barry Bozeman, William E. Mcalpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The objective of this experiment was to determine how certain attitudes and strategies of individuals impinge on their patterns of choice in a set of controlled decisional contexts representing a bureaucratic decision environment. Of particular interest was a decisional pattern in which the individual strives to maximize individual goals to the detriment of organizational and “mission” goals. The subjects of analysis were 81 undergraduate students who were grouped into teams and asked, after consulting with team members, to make decision choices concerning individual, group, and mission goals. It was hypothesized that variance in individual decisions could be explained by team interaction and psychological attribute variables. It was found that a mission strategy was most likely to be pursued by individuals who were relatively cosmopolitan and uncynical. Team strategies were largely a function of team strategy variables. The attitudinal variables were not particularly useful in predicting variance in an individual goal maximization strategy. An intriguing “wolf in sheep's clothing” phenomenon was observed in which many individuals who were individual goal maximizers professed a mission goal strategy to their team members. This finding indicates that deviousness may be a pervasive behavior even when the gain from deviousness is likely to be minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-429
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1977
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • General Social Sciences
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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