Interview and documentary data from a study of a voluntary job placement agency revealed that counselors were effectively weeding out the hard-to-place clients. These clients were the target population of the agency and its funded programs. The clients who were weeded out tended to be younger, with less education and less work experience. Weeding out was accomplished by discouraging unrealistic clients, and by not retrieving clients who were insufficiently motivated to keep in touch with the counselor. This marked a change in the counselors' practice compared with an earlier period, and appeared to be in conflict with the agency's mission, the counselors' altruistic orientation, and the expressed intent of the government-funded programs. The change in practice was associated with increased dependence of the agency and its counselors, and with the increasing demands for bureaucratic accountability from funding organizations.

The findings suggest that as social services are increasingly funded by government, the agencies and practitioners find themselves in the "iron cage" of bureaucratic rationality and accountability, less able to hold to their organizational purposes and to enact their altruistic values.

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