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Bureaucratic reputation, Reputation signals, Organizational identification, Organizational commitment
Notwithstanding the significance of a positive bureaucratic reputation, the average bureau functions amidst deep-rooted public hostility. Bureaucracy bashing presumably weakens public sector employees’ commitment to their bureaus, which is known to undermine public sector performance. Motivated by these concerns, this paper investigates whether exogenous signals regarding a bureau’s reputation affect the organizational attachment – identification and commitment – of its employees, and the variation in employee responses. Employing an experiment at an Israeli welfare bureaucracy, we show that the organizational attachment of employees who feel central and influential within the bureau is unshaken, and even reinforced, in response to negative reputation signals. Conversely, employees who feel marginal and powerless are receptive to both negative and positive reputation signals. The implications of these findings are that public organizations can buffer their employees from the detrimental effects of negative reputation signals, yet by so doing they may shut out justified scrutiny and demands for change.