Managerial perceptions of red tape

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Stuart Bretschneider


organizations, managers, bureaucracy, Public administration, Management, Labor relations

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Red tape, a topic of fundamental importance in the study of organizations, has received scant attention from organizational scholars. This study seeks to bridge that gap in organizational literature. In particular, this study focuses on managers' perceptions of red tape.

Three different models for explaining managerial perceptions of red tape are proposed in this study. The organizational model focuses on organizational factors such as size, formalization, administrative intensity, and administrative delays. The environmental model includes the sectoral location of the organization and publicness, a measure of the extent to which organizations are influenced by political authority. The individual factors model includes factors such as work alienation, central life interest, powerlessness, and some demographic variables.

The data for this study were collected by mail surveys under the auspices of National Administrative Studies Project. Empirical results provide support for all of the three models. Some of the relations proposed in the organizational and environmental models have been explored in the existing literature. The hypotheses set forth in the individual factors model are tested for the first time in this study.

The findings indicate that all three models are supported. The three models provide alternative explanations that are non-overlapping in nature. In the organizational factors model, besides the size of the organization the strongest finding is on the relation between rule observation and perceptions of red tape. For the environmental factors model, publicness measures provide an explanation for red tape even after the effects due to sector have been accounted for. Finally, from the individual factors model work alienation and powerlessness are strongly and positively related to perceptions of red tape. There is a positive relationship between the educational level of the respondent and perceptions of red tape. Finally, managers who have spent longer time in their current position are likely to perceive lower levels of red tape.


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