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How a Bad Bureaucratic Reputation Becomes ‘Toxic’: Theorizing and Conceptualizing Political Sanctioning Behavior as a Consequence of Reputational Decline

Governance
Public Administration
Power
Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen
Aarhus Universitet
Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen
Aarhus Universitet
Koen Verhoest
Universiteit Antwerpen

Abstract

According to Bureaucratic Reputation Theory (BRT) agencies engage in reputation management because, once developed, a favorable reputation serves as a valuable political asset. Establishing a positive reputation is hence assumed to achieve organizational autonomy, insulate agencies from political interference in day-to-day management and to protect agencies from political attack in times of crisis. While acknowledging the importance of politicians’ “sanctioned acceptance” of the legitimacy of agencies (Carpenter and Krause 2015), research into this core claim is, however, limited. Hence whether a favorable reputation actually serves as a shield or not, that is whether and how political principals respond to agencies’ who’s reputation is challenged is limited to a few studies of sanctions aimed at the formal autonomy of agencies (Carpenter 2001; MacDonald 2010; Verhoest et al. forthcoming). Further, while BRT has offered a definition of reputation and the different dimensions of public organizations reputation, theorizing on ‘the dependent variable’, that is the insulation from political interference, is limited. The ambition of this conceptual paper is to begin to address this limitation and further theorize on the political sanctioning behavior, which agencies may experience in the aftermath of a threat to and a decline in a favorable reputation. Hence the paper suggests a number of potential sanctions agencies may suffer in case they fail to establish and maintain a favorable reputation still needs elaboration, which may inform future empirical research when identifying the political outcomes of agencies reputation.