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Exploring the Links between Passive and Active Representation in Tennessee State Agencies

Author: JOAN M. GIBRAN
Published in PAQ, Vol. 37 No. 1

Despite a fairly extensive literature in representative bureaucracy, we still have not clearly established how organizational variables contribute to motivating public administrators to move beyond mere perceptions of discretionary authority to active representation of community interests. This exploratory research gives some insight into the organizational influences on individual beliefs about personal discretionary authority and factors that motivate public administrators to act on their perceptions of this authority to actively represent minority and community interests in their work. The data for this study were gathered from a survey of public administrators from nine Tennessee state agencies. The findings suggest that certain dimensions of organizational structure significantly affect administrators’ perceptions of discretion, and these effects may be mediated by received role messages and organizational leadership. Ambiguity and uncertainty appear to be especially important in the process of forming individual perceptions and in transforming passive representation into active representation.

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