Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Exploring the Links between Passive and Active Representation in Tennessee State Agencies

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Exploring the Links between Passive and Active Representation in Tennessee State Agencies

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Public administrators play an important role in the institutions and processes which flow from the Constitution. These constitutional institutions and processes are founded on notions of administrators' accountability to democratically elected representatives and of their inherent responsibility to protect the integrity of democratic processes (Burke & Cleary, 1989). With respect to the bureaucracy, it is expected that public administrators should respond to the needs of the public they serve and perform their duties with concern for the interests of the individuals and groups they serve (Barth 1992, 292). The theory of representative bureaucracy attempts to balance the administrative decision making that follows upon legislative delegation of decision making authority to administrators with the values of accountability to elected representatives and responsiveness to the public (West, 1984; Saltzstein, 1992). By acknowledging that public administration is more than a rational-instrumental process of policy implementation, the theory of representative bureaucracy attempts to complement the norm of instrumental rationality with the norm of bureaucratic responsiveness to the public. This theory is consistent with Rohr's concept of a legitimate public administration grounded in, and guided by, the Constitution in exercising its discretion to favor policies promoting the "public interest" (Rohr 1986). The objective of this research is not to establish a normative basis for the theory of representative bureaucracy, but to refine our understanding of how passive representation translates into active representation in the organizational context of state bureaucracies.

The literature on organizational leadership recognizes that leaders set the tone for administrative behavior and agency performance. Agency leaders influence administrative behavior by helping to create the organizational climate within which administrators form perceptions about their own roles and decision-making authority. Passive representation turns into active representation when administrators act on their beliefs about their personal discretionary authority to purposefully promote the welfare of their agency's clients in performing their job functions.

Research in representative bureaucracy provides us with a fairly extensive list of variables linking passive and active representation. Some of these linkages include administrators' demographic characteristics, geographic location; their acceptance of a representative or advocacy role on behalf of minorities and underserved groups; organizational influences; individual perceptions of discretionary authority; and agency expectations (Saidel and Loscocco, 2005; Keiser, Wilkins & Holland, 2004; Bacharach and Aiken, 1976; Grissom, Nicholson-Crotty, & Nicholson-Crotty, 2009). Certain dimensions of organizations, such as their structure, size, degree of formalization, horizontal and vertical differentiation, also significantly influence individual beliefs about, or perceptions of, their organizational role and discretionary authority (Aiken, Bacharach & French, 1980; Hammond, 1986; Trice & Beyer, 1993; Whitford, 2002; Meier & Bohte, 2000; Van Horn & Van Meter, 1976; Handler, 1986; Evetts, 2002). Thus, organizational factors and role expectations are significant for administrators' beliefs about their roles and responsibilities (Bacharach & Aiken, 1976; Romzek & Hendricks, 1982; Keizer, Wilkins & Holland, 2004; Seldon, Brewer & Brudney, 1999; Scott, 1997; Saidel & Loscocco, 2005; Turaga & Bozeman, 2005). These beliefs or perceptions are important in shaping administrative behavior. Therefore, understanding administrators' perceptions about their own authority, the organizational climate they work in, and how they come to form these ideas is important for our understanding of how passive representation translates into active representation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.