Street-Level Bureaucrats’ Social Value Orientation On and Off Duty

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Are street-level bureaucrats more willing to sacrifice their own self-interests to meet the needs of their clients when they are off duty or on duty? If the former is the case, what does that finding tell us about their work environment? Using the social value orientation paradigm in a mixed effects experimental design, the authors found that Israeli police officers demonstrated greater pro-social inclinations off duty compared with on duty. Given these findings, the authors suggest the possibility that the organization's constraints and culture may, paradoxically, reduce street-level bureaucrats’ real social value orientations and increase the promotion of their own self-interests when they are on duty. Evidence for Practice: Using an experiment, we found that police officers demonstrated more willingness to sacrifice their own interests to promote citizens’ needs when they were off duty than when they were on duty. We also found that the more years on the force police officers had, the less they demonstrated this pro-social orientation. Our findings imply that, paradoxically, the organizational environment reduces police officers’ social value orientation when they are on duty. We discuss the possibility that managers’ imposition of extensive external rules and incentives may crowd out their subordinates’ internal pro-social tendencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-453
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by The American Society for Public Administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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