The mid-level bureaucrats’ performance: determinants of their activities and work relationships

Abstract Although scholars have been investigating bureaucrats for a long time, mid-level bureaucrats (MLB) have been far less studied in the literature. To fill this gap, this article explores MLBs heterogeneity regarding their profile, professional background and, above all, performance. The main goal is to investigate the determinants of bureaucrats’ performance, depicted by two crucial dimensions: the degree of MLBs relationship within public bureaucracy and complexity level of their activities. These skills are valued today with increasing importance in contexts of network governance and bureaucratic responsiveness. First, a descriptive analysis was undertaken of survey data collected in 2014 from federal mid-level bureaucrats in positions filled by appointment. This was followed by formulating synthetic indexes of two dimensions: bureaucrats’ activities and their work relationships. Subsequently, multivariate models were employed to explain the determinants of these dimensions. Empirical results show that the mid-level bureaucrats’ performance is both affected by the government’s structure factors as well as by their own individual characteristics. However, the variables effects vary considerably. The empirical evidence suggests that MLBs tend to be more connected and perform more activities as they hold higher positions filled by appointment, have a higher level of education and capacity to influence decision processes and work directly with policymaking, especially in social policy.