Abstract

This study explores the relationship between organizational red tape and work alienation. While bureaucratic controls have long been considered sources of worker detachment, the relationship between red tape and managerial alienation has not been explicitly tested. When managers encounter rules, regulations, or procedures that seem pointless yet burdensome, these encounters may simultaneously trigger the key psychological ingredients of alienation—powerlessness and meaninglessness. These in turn are expected to reduce organizational commitment, job involvement, and job satisfaction, alienation indicators used in this study. To test these expectations, the study uses data from the National Administrative Studies Project (NASP-II). NASP-II surveyed managers in state health and human service agencies, producing a response rate of approximately 53 percent. Statistical analyses indicate that perceived personnel red tape is a consistently negative and statistically significant influence in all alienation models. Perceived organizational red tape is statistically significant and negative in all but the job involvement model. Other bureaucratic control mechanisms included in the models also appear to be sources of alienation, including centralization and technology routineness. However, formalization appears to be a mitigating, not exacerbating, influence on alienation. Considered together, these results suggest that red tape and other forms of bureaucratic control have adverse effects on the psychological attachment felt by public managers to their workplace.

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