Formal and functional social exchange relationships in the public sector
The Handbook of Public Sector Communication
Wiley & Sons
School of Business and Law / The Centre for Work and Organisational Performance
This chapter focuses on the behavioral elements that shape, and are shaped by, public sector communication. Building on Lipsky's “street level bureaucrat” theory, it highlights the power of front‐line public sector employees, through their communication, in diluting or ruining “good intentions” or innovating, enhancing, and improving ill‐conceived plans through autonomous decision‐making. The chapter explores the prominent dimensions that social exchanges take in public sector contexts, noting the impact that context has on shaping the kinds of relationships formed between public employees. In so doing, evidence is presented, emanating from a significant body of work amassed over almost 15 years, concerning the way that public organizations and their employees operate, and the impact of this on one form of communication (social exchange relationships). Through this, the chapter contributes to the emerging field of behavioral public administration, and a behavioral understanding of communication and its consequences, at the individual level of analysis of public organizations.