Street-Level Bureaucracy

Street-level bureaucracy is a part of the public agency. A subset of government institutions comprised of the individuals who execute the laws and other public policies. Each of the individuals is assigned to a specific responsibility by the law. Examples of street-level bureaucrats include all individuals that interact on day to day basis with citizens of a nation executing a specific force behind rules and laws in accordance to their areas of expertise and knowledge.

This idea of street level bureaucracy was first accepted and brought to people by Michael Lipsky in the year 1977. He argued that these bureaucrats should be viewed as part of the policy makers and people who exercise political powers.

According to Lipsky street-level bureaucracy is faced with many challenges among them inadequate resources. These can be classified further into organizational resources and personal resources. In terms of organizational resources we have one major factors which is the manpower to client ratio. There should be enough people working at the same level job to ensure the service is delivered to the target clients without any stress and with consistency. On the other hand, there should be enough time for the bureaucrats in different fields of services to make decisions, access information and consult.

The second challenge facing street-level bureaucracy is threats and authority challenge. The conditions and situations under which the bureaucrats work and execute their relevant force expose them to both physical and psychological threats. On the other hand the only thing to counter the threats is the degree of authority that can be imposed. The greater the level of authority the less the threats to be experienced. It should also be noted that the greater the threat the more these bureaucrats feel that authority is not being respected.

Another setback is the expectations about their role performance. In most cases the bureaucrats perform their jobs under ambiguous and contradicting expectations and at times unattainable goals. It is also not possible for the bureaucrats to determine who they will serve as their clients.

In order to make decisions when confronted with complex problems and uncertainties discussed above, individuals who have the organizational mandate have developed mechanisms to make their job easier. They include psychological mechanisms to deal with challenges above.

There have been developed routines and duty allocation to cater for inadequate resources. This way the bureaucrats are able to make decisions and accomplish their jobs with less stress. At the same time routines help in reduction of physical and psychological threats. In the case of expectations and role performance, problems are encountered by changing the role expectations. That way, they influence the expectations of the bureaucrats.

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