Red tape and burnout risks of public service managers

Blavatnik School working paper
Andrés Fernández
Pablo González
Laura Gutiérrez

Although empirical research has consistently confirmed the harmful implications of red tape on public organisations and officials, its impact on employees’ job stress and burnout remains elusive. Besides, those studies are predominantly based on developed countries with relatively similar administrative traditions.

The authors conducted a survey experiment with 375 principals in Chile—based on the numerous requirements they regularly deliver to key educational stakeholders of the country’s school system governance—and confirmed that red tape leads to public service managers’ burnout risks. A rise in the red tape they typically experience increases their emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation and reduces their personal accomplishment. Conversely, a decline of the red tape public service managers face diminishes their emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, while their personal accomplishment is not affected.

The findings also show that public service managers’ emotional exhaustion is the most responsive burnout aspect to red tape, followed by depersonalisation and then personal accomplishment. Likewise, red tape increase and decrease produce unsymmetric effects: the former yields consistently higher impacts across all public service managers’ burnout dimensions than the latter. These findings expand the understanding of red tape implications in public service, especially in institutional settings different from those traditionally studied.

DOI: 10.35489/BSG-PEOPLEGOV-RI_2021/002