Accountability - Are we Better off Without it? An Emirical Study on the Effects of Accountability on Public Managers` Work Behaviour
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Public managers increasingly lament about negative effects of accountability. Despite these re- ports and the importance of accountability in public organisations, it is yet unknown when it has positive or negative effects on managers. Overcoming two major obstacles in current accountabil- ity research, this study therefore investigates ‘how accountability affects public manager’s work behaviour’. Firstly, the study applies a cognitive theory. Rational choice theories so far were unable to explain individual behaviour in face of accountability demands. Cognitive theories, however, pro- vide a promising pathway out of this theoretical ‘dead-end’. Secondly, the quasi-experimental research design in combination with the analysis of 65 ‘real’ public managers makes the complex concept of accountability more tangible and ﬁndings hence transferable to practice. Results indicate that accountability exerts very heterogeneous effects on work behaviour. While under some circumstances accountability might improve managers’ performance, in oth- ers it is counterproductive. These ﬁndings strongly challenge the positive normative connotation of accountability – and furthermore offer challenging paths for future research.