Is there a relation between street-level bureaucrats’ enforcement style and their perception of the risk of getting blamed? This article answers this question on the basis of a survey (n = 507) among inspectors of the Netherlands Food and Product Safety Authority. We included perceived media attention on their work as a factor that might influence street-level bureaucrats’ perception of blame risk and their enforcement style. Three dimensions of enforcement style were distinguished from earlier research: legal, facilitative and accommodative. We found that when inspectors perceive more blame risk, they employ a slightly less legal style and, instead, employ a more accommodative style. Thus, they act a little less formally and less coercively (i.e. legal) and take greater account of their peers’ opinions (i.e. accommodative). However, perceived media attention did not have a significant influence on enforcement style. Points for practitioners: 1. When inspectors perceive more blame risk, they tend to pay more attention to the opinion of peers (other inspectors, supervisors, etc.). 2. Blame risk does not lead to the use of a more formal inspection style. 3. Media attention does not play an important role in enhancing the blame risk perception of inspectors. 4. This media and blame risk is less important than often found in the case of politicians. This may be connected to the fact that the work of inspectors as street-level bureaucrats is less visible to the wider public (and the media).

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Keywords blame avoidance, blame risk, enforcement style, inspectors, street-level bureaucrat
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Series VSNU Open Access deal
Journal International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration
Klijn, E-H, Eshuis, J, Opperhuizen, A. (Alette), & Boer, N.D. (Noortje de). (2020). Blaming the bureaucrat: does perceived blame risk influence inspectors’ enforcement style?. International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration. doi:10.1177/0020852319899433