Formal and Informal Accountabilities and Accountability Management: Impact on Work Performance

Published date01 May 2023
AuthorKwangseon Hwang
Date01 May 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(5) 953 –981
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997231165261
Formal and Informal
and Accountability
Management: Impact on
Work Performance
Kwangseon Hwang1
This study empirically examines the relationship between several
accountability aspects and perceived work performance in the specific
context of child-welfare services in the State of Virginia. The results show
mixed evidence. For example, legal and ethical accountabilities positively affect
performance, but each type of accountability (formal and informal) influences
the work performance of child-welfare caseworkers differently—directly or
indirectly—through a compliance strategy. Hierarchical accountability and
the adoption of a discretionary strategy do not affect performance, at least in
this context. Accountability management appears to play a meaningful role as
a mediator within the accountability-performance link.
accountability, performance, accountability management, mediation, child-
welfare caseworkers
1Gachon University, Seongnam, Republic of Korea
Corresponding Author:
Kwangseon Hwang, Gachon University, 1342 Seongnamdaero, Seongnam 13120, Republic of
1165261AAS0010.1177/00953997231165261Administration & SocietyHwang
954 Administration & Society 55(5)
Various studies in the public domain have assumed that accountability posi-
tively influences work performance. However, few studies have explored this
assumed relationship in research on public administration (e.g., Han & Hong,
2019; Kim & Lee, 2010), particularly at the street level (e.g., Ali & Nicholson-
Crotty, 2021). Managing accountability is being widely discussed, but its
influence on performance has been little researched in public settings. The
existing literature has abstractly argued that multiple accountability require-
ments may not hinder organizational effectiveness, as long as public employ-
ees can effectively manage and address them. There has been little development
of knowledge on whether and how managing them really matters, except for
“coping” literature (Hwang & Han, 2017; van Loon & Jakobsen, 2018). The
current study fills this research gap.
As many scholars have noted, accountability as an independent variable is
an important area of research linked to good governance and work perfor-
mance (Lynn et al., 2000, 2001). However, we obtained a fairly mixed result
for the Accountability Performance (A P) link. Traditionally, bureau-
cratic values or hierarchical approaches play a role in determining how
bureaucrats implement policies (Lipsky, 2010; Maynard-Moody & Musheno,
2003); however, caseworkers trained as social workers are likely to respond
more positively to accountability expectations that flow out of their training
and sense of professional norms (Paddock, 2003). Informal accountability is
increasingly being understood as an important accountability mechanism in
street-level bureaucracy (Romzek et al., 2012). Accordingly, this study
attempts to shed light on the role of formal and informal accountabilities and
aims to provide empirical evidence on whether informal accountability is
more important than formal accountability. Perceiving and experiencing
identical accountability settings in conspicuous diverging ways yields mis-
matches between formal and informal accountabilities. Drawing on the para-
dox or web of accountability in practice (Jos & Tompkins, 2004) and the
prescriptive argument of balancing competing accountability requirements
(Kim, 2005), a hitherto unexplored question in the literature needs to be
examined further: Which dimension of accountability can be emphasized for
better performance? This study also pays attention to how the effects of
accountability on performance work through accountability management.
This study examines the roles of formal and informal accountabilities and
accountability management in improving work performance in the context
of child-welfare services in the State of Virginia. It aims to illuminate some
of the challenges and complexities inherent in performance management.
Child welfare covers a spectrum of services, including the identification and

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT