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Abstract

The survey data in this study of 1313 caseworkers and income-maintenance workers of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare provide some elements of a description of white-collar alienation in government bureaucracies. We interpret our findings to indicate that the hierarchical communication network of this department operates to deny implicitly the worth and intelligence of workers. As perceived by employees, the general pattern of message construction, message transmission and message acknowledgment takes no account of their needs for information and validation nor does it allow the information generated at the work place to be fed back to the administration. Thus, the impact of much departmental communication is both disorienting and dysfunctional to many workers. It is disorienting because of the discrepancy between the official goals of humane service and assistance delivery to the poor and disabled and bureaucratic regulations and procedures which hamper the achievement of those goals. It is dysfunctional in that it promotes worker hostility, indifference and ignorance.

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