Debate: Towards a more comprehensive understanding of ritualized bureaucracy in digitalized public organizations

Robin Bauwens, Kenn Meyfroodt

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


Often, technology enforces new types of red tape to abolish older forms of red tape (Peled, 2001, p. 424).Rules and regulations that require follow up, but serve no direct functional purpose—referred to in the literature on ritualized bureaucracy as ‘red tape’—afflict public organizations worldwide (Bozeman, 2012; Kaufmann et al., 2018; Lodge & Wegrich, 2009). While many rules and regulations have their merits, red tape limits the available space for innovative ideas, deteriorates the organizational culture and weighs in on employees’ work satisfaction and their intention to continue working for the organization (George et al., forthcoming).So are public organizations powerless against red tape? Many thought a solution was within reach with the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICT) in public organizations. Expectations were that red tape would be eradicated, or at least severely reduced (Kim et al., 2014). However, despite significant investments in ICT (Mergel et al., 2019), red tape remains a pathology in digitalized public organizations. This comes as no surprise, given Bozeman and Youtie’s (2020) warning about the risk of ICT not reducing, but ‘automating’ red tape through bureaucratic software. Indeed, nowadays, compliance to (dys)functional rules and procedures occurs digitally, supported by ICT or other technologies. Think about ill-designed, outdated, e-portals curtailing leeway for personnel administration; the panoply of steps for travel cost reimbursements and tax filing; or the endless lists of PDF manuals and hard-to-find forms on intranets!
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-282
JournalPublic Money and Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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