Personnel flexibility and red tape in public and nonprofit organizations: Distinctions due to institutional and political accountability

Mary K. Feeney, Hal G. Rainey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Academics and journalists have depicted government bureaucracies as particularly subject to administrative constraints, including the infamous red tape and personnel rules that sharply constrain pay, promotion, and dismissal and weaken their relations to performance. Research on these topics has often focused on public organizations alone or on comparisons of public and private organizations. The analysis reported here extends this research to include nonprofit organizations. Certain theoretical perspectives would predict sharp differences between public and nonprofit organizations, whereas others would predict no differences. Using survey data from managerial-level respondents in state government and nonprofit organizations in Georgia and Illinois, this analysis compares perceptions of red tape and personnel rule constraints in public and nonprofit organizations. We investigate whether or not public and nonprofit respondents differ in their perceptions about levels of organizational red tape and about whether formal rules enable or constrain managers in promoting and rewarding good employees and removing poor performers. The results indicate sharp public and nonprofit differences, with public managers reporting higher perceived organizational red tape and lower levels of personnel flexibility. In addition to public and nonprofit comparisons, the analysis takes into account other factors that might influence public and nonprofit managers' perceptions of red tape and personnel flexibility in their organizations, including individual motivations to choose the job, the respondent's state (Georgia or Illinois), and others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-826
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'Personnel flexibility and red tape in public and nonprofit organizations: Distinctions due to institutional and political accountability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this