Trust betrayal is a subjective feeling of a street-level bureaucrat (SLB) that a client acted contrary to expectations, diminishing the former's belief in the latter's good intentions. How do SLBs experience a betrayal of trust by clients? How do such betrayals shape the future ways in which SLBs cope with clients? We investigate these questions empirically using semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups with Israeli social service providers. The findings reveal four types of client trust betrayal: integrity-based, previous impression-based, legitimate behavior-based, and category-based. We identify five strategies SLBs employ to cope with clients following such betrayals. With specific clients who betrayed their trust, they adopt minimal, formal, and guarded behavior; they satisfy the client's demands; they sever the relationship with the client entirely. With future clients, they exhibit careful, less “naïve” behavior and adopt a boundary-setting approach. The negative implications for public service delivery may be far-reaching.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Public Administration