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“I Have Learned My Lesson”: How clients’ trust betrayals shape the future ways in which street-level bureaucrats cope with their clients

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Abstract

Trust betrayal is a subjective feeling of a street-level bureaucrat (SLB) that a client acted contrary to expectations, diminishing the former’s belief in the latter’s good intentions. How do SLBs experience a betrayal of trust by clients? How do such betrayals shape the future ways in which SLBs cope with clients? We investigate these questions empirically using semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups with Israeli social service providers. The findings reveal four types of client trust betrayal: integrity-based, previous impression-based, legitimate behaviour-based, and category-based. We identify five strategies SLBs employ to cope with clients following such betrayals. With specific clients who betrayed their trust, they adopt minimal, formal, and guarded behaviour; they satisfy the client’s demands; they sever the relationship with the client entirely. With future clients, they exhibit careful, less “naïve” behaviour and adopt a boundary-setting approach. The negative implications for public service delivery may be far-reaching.

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What is the role of culture in street-level bureaucrats' bending the rules and accepting informal payments for health care? The literature on street-level bureaucrats stresses the importance of both individual and organizational factors in understanding how they use their discretion, but usually neglects the importance of the culture in determining how far they are willing to go in exercising this discretion. Using data from 102 in-depth interviews with doctors and nurses in Israel, and by linking the literature about street-level bureaucrats to that of the research on informal payments for healthcare, we demonstrate that the culture plays a key role in decisions about accepting such payments. According to our findings, such payments are a phenomenon rooted in the culture and range from the extreme case of bribery to the fuzzier area of making exceptions for favored and sympathetic clients.
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This article discusses factors shaping street-level caseworkers' role in the ‘personalization’ of activation for people with employability and health-related barriers to work. Rice's (2013) micro-institutionalist framework understands street-level bureaucracy as being defined across three levels: interactions between caseworkers and clients; the environment of the implementing organization that shapes, and is shaped by, these interactions; and the relationship between these two levels of interaction and the wider economic, policy and social context. While building on the foundations laid by previous scholars, we use Rice's framework as the starting point for a preliminary study of street-level bureaucrats' role in compulsory activation. We analyse in-depth interviews with caseworkers and clients involved in the UK government's main activation programme – ‘The Work Programme’. Our findings support other studies and add to the literature by suggesting that a number of organizational and high-level policy factors have contributed to an increasing standardization of street-level practice.
Article
Dutch immigration and integration policies are being interpreted and implemented by local street-level bureaucrats. We carried out 28 semi-structured interviews with integration coaches, integration teachers and client managers in order to understand the dilemmas they face, and to explain their subsequent behaviour. The results show that although organizational characteristics such as the bureaucratic burden made street-level bureaucrats reluctant to enlarge their discretionary space at the expense of policy rules, their willingness to help clients often transcends these boundaries under a combination of three conditions: high client motivation, extreme personal distress of the client, and negative assessment of existing policies and policy instruments (both in terms of fairness and practicality). Furthermore, street-level bureaucrats were found to be constantly reinterpreting and revising their roles.
Article
First published in 1980, Street-Level Bureaucracy received critical acclaim for its insightful study of how public service workers, in effect, function as policy decision makers, as they wield their considerable discretion in the day-to-day implementation of public programs. Three decades later, the need to bolster the availability and effectiveness of healthcare, social services, education, and law enforcement is as urgent as ever. In this thirtieth anniversary expanded edition, Michael Lipsky revisits the territory he mapped out in the first edition to reflect on significant policy developments over the last several decades. Despite the difficulties of managing these front-line workers, he shows how street-level bureaucracies can be and regularly are brought into line with public purposes. Street-level bureaucrats-from teachers and police officers to social workers and legal-aid lawyers-interact directly with the public and so represent the frontlines of government policy. In Street-Level Bureaucracy, Lipsky argues that these relatively low-level public service employees labor under huge caseloads, ambiguous agency goals, and inadequate resources. When combined with substantial discretionary authority and the requirement to interpret policy on a case-by-case basis, the difference between government policy in theory and policy in practice can be substantial and troubling. The core dilemma of street-level bureaucrats is that they are supposed to help people or make decisions about them on the basis of individual cases, yet the structure of their jobs makes this impossible. Instead, they are forced to adopt practices such as rationing resources, screening applicants for qualities their organizations favor, "rubberstamping" applications, and routinizing client interactions by imposing the uniformities of mass processing on situations requiring human responsiveness. Occasionally, such strategies work out in favor of the client. But the cumulative effect of street-level decisions made on the basis of routines and simplifications about clients can reroute the intended direction of policy, undermining citizens' expectations of evenhanded treatment. This seminal, award-winning study tells a cautionary tale of how decisions made by overburdened workers translate into ad-hoc policy adaptations that impact peoples' lives and life opportunities. Lipsky maintains, however, that these problems are not insurmountable. Over the years, public managers have developed ways to bring street-level performance more in line with agency goals. This expanded edition of Street-Level Bureaucracy underscores that, despite its challenging nature, street-level work can be made to conform to higher expectations of public service.
Article
With the increased attention on labour market participation, the field of work reintegration support has grown dramatically. In order to improve professionals' performance, standards and performance measures are introduced in this field. We question whether this will improve the quality of their work. Closer scrutiny needs to be paid to the inherently normative and structuring role of professional judging. We applied the concept of ‘frames of reference’ to the process of professional judgement in work reintegration. This concept helped us to understand how a work reintegration professional structures a client's story through implicit rules that escape formalization and control mechanisms. On the basis of 24 in-depth interviews with diverse work reintegration professionals in the Netherlands, we distinguish five of these frames: a procedural, a work-focused, a caring, a learning and a facilitating frame of reference. Furthermore, we show that professionals differ widely in the images they have of clients, leading to a large variety in judgement of, and interaction with, clients. Though differences between professionals are inherent to a complex and dynamic field as work reintegration, the current variety in professional-client contact in work reintegration seems to depend too much on arbitrary professional preferences. Therefore, reflection on these differences, both among professionals and by policymakers, is needed in order to improve the professional practice of work reintegration service.
Article
There seems to be a declining public trust in government, and this decline may not be the symptom of a major problem. Rather, it may be the inevitable result of the declining role of government in the age of economic globalisation. It can be argued that the economic system has become so advanced that it has become highly independent from traditional state control and regulation, so public trust in government will naturally decline because there will be less need for it in the future than in the past. This perspective bears some significant implications for future research and practice concerning public trust in government.
Article
In street-level work discretion is inevitable. Scholars have articulated a dominant view or narrative that addresses the role of discretion in the administrative state. This state-agent narrative acknowledges inevitability of discretion and emphasizes that self-interest guides street-level choices: street-level workers use their discretion to make their work easier, safer, and more rewarding. In addition the dominant narrative describes street-level workers as policy makers, yet it worries about the threat that street-level discretion poses to democratic governance. Street-level workers, themselves, tell a different story, a counternarrative of the worker acting as a citizen agent. These two narratives are not wholly inconsistent but they differ in emphasis and meaning. The description of the street-level counter-narrative is based on extensive fieldwork in two states and five agencies. Rather than discretionary state agents who act in response to rules, procedures, and law, street-level workers describe themselves as citizen agents who act in response to individuals and circumstances. They do not describe what they do as contributing to policy making or even as implementing policy. Moreover, street-level workers do not describe their decisions and actions as based on their views of the correctness of the rules, wisdom of the policy, or accountability to any hierarchical authority or democratic principle. They base their decisions on their judgment of the worth of the individual citizen client. Street-level workers discount the importance of self-interest and will often make their work harder, more unpleasant, more dangerous, and less officially successful in order to respond to the needs of individuals. They describe themselves as decision makers, but they base their decisions on normative choices, not in response to rules, procedures, or policies. These normative choices are defined in terms of relationships to citizens, clients, coworkers, and the system. By substituting their pragmatic judgments for the unrealistic views of those with formal and legitimate authority, street-level workers are, in their view, acting responsibly.
Article
The existing literature addressing antecedents of public service motivation (PSM) focuses on personal predisposition and institutional shaping. The authors offer a focus that differs from previous studies, arguing that workplace trust as a result of human interaction and personal choice has a bearing on PSM. It is postulated that public managers' trust in citizens, trust in colleagues, and trust in agency leaders enhance their PSM. The authors test this proposition by using data collected from middle managers working in the Taiwan central government and it receives strong support. This study brings trust into the study of PSM, facilitates interdisciplinary dialogues, and thus helps make PSM a type of knowledge that pushes back the boundaries of public administration.
Article
Examples of violations or betrayals of trust in organizations abound. Despite growing concern in organizations, relatively little theory exists regarding the dynamics of trust violations from the perpetrator's (rather than the victim's) perspective. We adopt the betrayer's perspective in this article and, drawing from multiple literatures, offer a conceptualization of betrayal, differentiating it from deviant and antisocial behaviors in organizations. Next, we propose a:typology of betrayal before focusing on the most common form: opportunistic betrayal. We then develop ct model of its antecedents and moderators and highlight the intrapersonal-; interpersonal-, and organization-level characteristics of the model's components. We end by discussing implications for theory, research, and practice.
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This article discusses the nature and importance of the relationship between social and political trust. The first section contains an account of the problems that define trust and a list of its main types. An outline of how trust is measured in empirical research is and how reliable and valid these measurements are can be found in the next section. The article ends with a list of the main theories of trust and the empirical evidence for these theories.
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Based on the Asia Barometer Survey of 2003, 2004, and 2006, government performance, citizen empowerment, and citizen satisfaction with self-expression values are associated with public trust in government in Japan and South Korea. This study finds, first, that government performance on the economy, controlling political corruption, the quality of public services, crime, and attention to citizen input are significantly associated with broad public trust in government in both Japan and South Korea. Likewise, citizens’ satisfaction with their right to gather and demonstrate and to criticize the government is closely connected to trust in central and local governments in Japan. In South Korea, citizens’ satisfaction with their right to gather and demonstrate is intimately linked to trust in local government. Implications for government leadership to enhance performance, transparency, citizen participation, and public trust in government are analyzed and elaborated upon in this insightful study.
Article
The concept of ‘street-level bureaucracy’ was coined by Michael Lipsky (1980) as the common denominator for what would become a scholarly theme. Since then his stress on the relative autonomy of professionals has been complemented by the insight that they are working in a micro-network of relations, in varying contexts. The conception of ‘governance’ adds a particular aspect to this: the multi-dimensional character of a policy system as a nested sequence of decisions. Combining these views casts a different perspective on the ways street-level bureaucrats are held accountable. In this article some axiomatic assumptions are drawn from the existing literature on the theme of street-level bureaucracy and on the conception of governance. Acknowledging variety, and arguing for contextualized research, this results in a rethinking of the issue of accountability at the street level.
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An important but unattended consideration in citizen participation efforts is whether public officials trust citizens and, if not, whether they can formulate and implement policies that really engage, empower, and emancipate citizens. This study attempts to answer four questions: Is public officials' trust in citizens relevant and important? Is it a valid construct that can be differentiated from other constructs? What factors influence its level? And how does trust influence citizen involvement efforts? Based on a survey of 320 public administrators, the study finds that public administrators' trust in citizens is a relevant and valid construct and a predictor of proactive citizen involvement efforts. Public administrators generally have a neutral (neither trustful nor distrustful) view of citizens. Finally, factors affecting the level of trust are identified at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.