Organization Performance in Turbulent Environments: The Contingent Role of Administrative Intensity in Hurricane Rita

Sangyub Ryu, Robert K. Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study uses a natural experiment of school performance during Hurricane Rita in 2005 to investigate the impact of administrative intensity on student achievement in turbulent environments. Administrative intensity constitutes the bureaucratic capacity of the workforce, which we measure as a ratio of noncore to core personnel. Scholars have debated the contingent impact of administrative intensity on organizational performance and policy outcomes—focusing either on its contribution to organizational rigidity or enhancement of stores of human capital. We explore a curvilinear alternative to this debate by investigating the moderating role of administrative intensity in the otherwise negative relationship between environmental turbulence and organizational performance. Because school districts are the organizations of interest in this study, we measure organizational performance via student achievement. Along a curvilinear continuum, we find that administrative intensity contributes to poor performance in less turbulent environments but heightened performance in more turbulent environments. Making a contingent case for “bureaucracy,” our findings draw attention to environments where administrative intensity can provide a positive performance buffer. Our study extends insights offered by Meier, O’Toole, and Hicklin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-531
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Christensen’s role in this research was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea Grant from the Korean Government (NRF-2017S1A3A2065838).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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