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Abstract

This ethnographic study finds a case management agency torn between the rules of two conflicting bureaucracies. Funded by a federal grant, the agency is administered by the county, and the regulations of the two systems turn out to be incompatible. This conflict creates dilemmas in providing services to clients: meeting eligibility criteria for services from the federal grant meant the clients did not meet the eligibility criteria for many County services. Agency staff reacted to this dilemma by bending rules, finding loopholes, and investing extra time and emotional labor in each client. The role-conflict engendered by bureaucratic disjunction creates frustration, resentment, and burnout within the agency.

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