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Becoming the man Zachary W. Oberfield

Becoming the man

Zachary W. Oberfield

Published
ISBN : 9780549793144
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294 pages
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Street-level bureaucrats play an important role in governance by distributing public goods and implementing public policy. Though bound by laws and administrative rules, these bureaucrats wield significant discretion. Workers views of a citizensMoreStreet-level bureaucrats play an important role in governance by distributing public goods and implementing public policy. Though bound by laws and administrative rules, these bureaucrats wield significant discretion. Workers views of a citizens deservingness and their perceptions of their role as a government agent influence their frontline decisions. This dissertation asks: what influences the construction of street-level bureaucrats beliefs and workplace identities? To answer this question I examined two sets of street-level bureaucrats---police officers and welfare workers---in a large city during their first two years in their organizations.-It is unclear to what extent bureaucrats identities and beliefs are forged inside their organizations. Some argue that bureaucratic perceptions are mostly the result of self-selection: pre-hiring or extra-organizational experiences. In contrast, many works emphasize the primacy of organizational socialization on workers identities and attitudes. Taken together it seems likely that dispositions and organizations influence workers views and identities but it is not clear how or why- this dissertation studied both sets of factors and examined their relative impact on a variety of outcomes.-To study worker development this dissertation used a longitudinal research design and analyzed three types of data: surveys, interviews, and participant self-observation. These data were collected from workers at the time of their entrance into the organization, at the end of their first year, and at the completion of their second year. Findings suggest that both sets of workers were significantly influenced by the organizations that they joined and that they developed different workplace identities due to varying workplace influences. Cops adopted identities that emphasized discretion and case uniqueness while caseworkers adopted neutral identities and came to see most cases as similar. Both workers reported emotionally disconnecting themselves from their work and adopting personal responsibility as a guiding lens for understanding social problems like crime and poverty. The picture of socialization reported here suggests that workers are shaped by organizational and outside influences- public organizations and theorists wishing to understand how to groom workers should closely study entrants socialization experiences.