Public organizations have traditionally been geared to reducing uncertainty by means of standardization and hierarchical control. In recent decades, managerial reforms and digitalization have made it possible to put public officials’ work under even closer scrutiny and control. At the same time, however, frontline discretion is seen as essential in today’s horizontal forms of service provision and law enforcement. Notions such as trust and collaboration are not predefined, but left open for frontline officials’ professional expertise.
This doctoral dissertation examines how frontline officials who work in a bureaucratic context and have been granted considerable discretion, experience uncertainties and attempt to reduce these uncertainties. By studying tax officials’ and labor inspectors’ work from a bottom-up perspective, this dissertation finds that frontline decision making is in large part dependent on indeterminate social interactions and affected by different uses of social typologies. This thesis concludes that a sociological approach to the study of frontline decision making is warranted.

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S.G.J. Van de Walle (Steven) , S.M. Groeneveld (Sandra)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
This dissertation was funded by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Vidi project ‘The other side of the gap: Do public officials trust citizens?’ (grant no. 452-11-011)
Faculty of Governance & Global Affairs

Raaphorst, N. (2017, October 12). Uncertainty in Bureaucracy : Toward a Sociological Understanding of Frontline Decision Making. Retrieved from