Brunetto, Y, Farr-Wharton, R & Shacklock, K 2009, 'Street-level bureaucrats: can they deliver?', Proceedings of the British Academy of Management (BAM) Conference, Brighton, UK, 15-17 September, BAM.
This paper used Social Exchange Theory to examine the impact of the supervisor-subordinate relationship on different types of street-level bureaucrats’ (SLB) perceptions of autonomy and role clarity. The findings challenge Lipsky’s (1980) theory about the autonomy of SLBs because they felt only somewhat autonomous in the workplace. Moreover, they are only slightly satisfied with their supervision but their supervision practices significantly affect their perceptions of autonomy as well as their levels of role clarity. The findings therefore indicate that present management practices are not ideal for promoting effective workplace relationships or for addressing the current skills shortage. By contrast, private sector nurses were found to have comparatively higher levels of satisfaction with supervisor-subordinate relationships and therefore of autonomy and consequently, of role clarity. The implications for public sector managers responsible for ensuring SLBs do have the conditions in place to deliver appropriate services to the Australian public are discussed.