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Leisha DeHart-Davis, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Leisha DeHart-Davis, Ph.D. Leisha DeHart-Davis, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Administration Government | UNC-Chapel Hill


Leisha DeHart-Davis is a professor in the Master of Public Administration Program in the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill.





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Leisha DeHart-Davis is a Professor at the UNC School of Government. She directs the Local Government Workplaces Initiative, which conducts organizational research for improving city and county workplaces, and is also a faculty partner in Engaging Women in Local Government, a program that seeks to equip women to pursue public service leadership positions. DeHart-Davis is a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow and recipient of the 2019 Gary Cornia Distinguished Lecturer given by the Romney Institute of Brigham Young University. She has published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Review, International Public Management Journal, Administration and Society, and Review of Public Personnel Administration. Her book, Creating Effective Rules in Public Sector Organizations, was published by Georgetown University Press in 2017 and has won best book awards from the American Society for Public Administration and the Academy of Management Public and Nonprofit Division. DeHart-Davis holds a PhD in public policy from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Areas of Expertise (19)

Employee Voice

Emotional Labor

Organizational Development

Employee Morale

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Women in Public Service

Survey Methodology

Research Methods for Public Administration

Public Management

Public Administration

Organizational Policies and Procedures

Human Resource Management

Employer-Employee Relations

Employee Engagement Surveys

Workplace Dynamics

Gender in the Workplace

Organizational Silence

Psychological Safety


Accomplishments (5)

DeHart-Davis’ Book on “Green Tape” Named “Best Book” by Two National Organizations (professional)

Faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis’ latest publication, Creating Effective Rules in Public Sector Organizations, continues to earn accolades from public administration experts. The book was selected as the winner of the 2018 Best Book Award by both the Public & Nonprofit division of the Academy of Management and the Section on Public Administration Research of the American Society of Public Administration.

Leisha DeHart-Davis Recognized as Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar (professional)

In 2018, UNC School of Government faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis was recognized as one of nine Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars for their community engagement through scholarly endeavors. The program, an initiative of the Carolina Center for Public Service, brings together selected faculty from across campus for a two-year experiential, competency-based curriculum designed to advance their engaged scholarship.

Leisha DeHart-Davis Selected as NAPA Fellow (professional)

Faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis has been elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Among a group of 41 distinguished practitioners of public administration recognized this year, DeHart-Davis will be officially inducted into the Academy in Arlington, VA, this November. She will join fellow School of Government colleagues Carl Stenberg and David Ammons in NAPA fellowship.

Chair, Public and Nonprofit Division, Academic of Management (professional)

The Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management brings together scholars, managers, and students who continue the public and nonprofit sectors and the relationships among public, nonprofit, and private sector organizations.

Chair, Board of Advisors (2015), Arizona State University Center for Organizational Research and Design (professional)

Public sector management requires the simultaneous consideration of executing policies designed to meet public welfare while operating under unique constraints. Arizona State University's Center for Organizational Research and Design examines the drivers and outcomes of individual managerial behavior, managerial practices and organizational dynamics and how they influence public sector missions.

Education (2)

Georgia Institute of Technology: Ph.D., Doctorate, Public Policy

University of South Carolina: B.A., Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies

Affiliations (2)

  • Master of Public Administration Program UNC Chapel Hill Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Distinguished Term Associate Professor
  • Public Management Research Association

Media Appearances (3)

Improving bureaucracy through organizational research

The Measure of Everyday Life  radio


Popular culture has tended to depict bureaucracy in a negative light, but social science research has suggested some opportunities to model well-functioning organizations. Leisha DeHart-Davis of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill talks about innovations in improving how bureaucracies function.

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Faculty Member DeHart-Davis Helps Public Employees Be Heard

Governing  print


"My department manager does not like differing opinions shared and tries to shut down any conversations of such." "Over the years, we have been asked many times about ways to save money for the department and the city, but nothing ever changes." "Nine times out of ten, my ideas are dismissed." These excerpts from interviews with employees of local governments -- a building inspector, a firefighter, a parking services representative and a housing maintenance technician -- illustrate what employee silence looks like, when workers intentionally withhold ideas for workplace improvements or keep their concerns to themselves. These employees have chosen not to speak up because nothing comes of their suggestions, they fear retribution or their thoughts are dismissed

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Women are half the population. Now they’re half the Raleigh City Council, too.

News and Observer  print


“I think women are absolutely more motivated to run,” said Leisha DeHart-Davis, an associate professor at UNC’s School of Government. “My impression is that women are seeing political issues being addressed very narrowly and not taking into account a range of concerns, and I expect we’re going to see an increasing number of women running in the coming years.”

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Courses (9)

Engaging Women in Public Service

The North Carolina City/County Management Association (NCCCMA) is a key event sponsor, with the UNC School of Government also providing support through its Innovation Funding provided by the Local Government Federal Credit Union. In keeping with its mission to equip women to ascend in public service organizations, this Engaging Women event features two parts: a media training session in the morning, conducted by Green Room Communications LLC, and an afternoon session on executive local government career development presented by nationally renowned recruiter Heidi Voorhees.

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Human Capital Matters

This webinar on-demand series features experts speaking on a range of human capital management issues relevant to local government. Webinars Succession Planning for Local Government Organizations Effective Disciplinary Procedures Value-Based Customer Service, Webinar On-Demand Diversity & Inclusion: Successfully Leveraging Differences (Webinar On-Demand) Human Capital Matters Webinar - Employee Performance Evaluation 101

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Succession Planning for Local Government Organizations

"Workforce planning is the most critical human resource management challenge in the public sector today." (IPMA 2002). This presentation will address this critical challenge through a discussion of the need for workforce planning including a presentation of the basic steps and stages of the planning process. The presentation will draw on examples of what is occurring in public organizations, specifically an overview of the current state of workforce planning in North Carolina to provide highlights of the variations in practice as well as needed next steps. Teresa Lockamy, formerly with the City of Greensboro, NC, will explore the evolution of Greensboro's succession planning strategies over several years, highlighting lessons learned, specific tools implemented, and program results. Willow Jacobson, School of Government, will discuss research and promising practices on succession planning in local government. This program will benefit local governments seeking guidance on how to implement succession planning within their organizations.

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Diversity & Inclusion: Successfully Leveraging Differences

The U.S. workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in gender, age, race and ethnicity of employees. This Human Capital Matters webinar will focus on how to leverage these demographic characteristics to create more productive and effective workplaces. Richard Regan, a diversity and inclusion trainer from Kensington, MD, will lead the webinar, designed to help local government managers understand common diversity dynamics in the workplace and provide practical advice for creating inclusive workplaces.

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Capital Matters Webinar On-Demand Series

This webinar on-demand series features experts speaking on a range of human capital management issues relevant to local government.

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Diversity & Inclusion Successfully Leveraging Differences (Webinar On-Demand)

The U.S. workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in gender, age, race and ethnicity of employees. This Human Capital Matters webinar will focus on how to leverage these demographic characteristics to create more productive and effective workplaces. Richard Regan, a diversity and inclusion trainer from Kensington, MD, will lead the webinar, designed to help local government managers understand common diversity dynamics in the workplace and provide practical advice for creating inclusive workplaces.

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Effective Disciplinary Procedures

Employee discipline in public organizations should be rare, but effective when it has to take place. HR veterans Drake Maynard and Becky Veazey will talk about the most effective approaches to employee discipline, including the role of employees in identifying their own improvements, the need for clear, written disciplinary procedures, and how supervisors can facilitate difficult conversations. Drake Maynard is the former director of the Employee Relations Division at the NC Office of State Personnel and president of DMHRServices, LLC; Becky Veazey is the former human resource director with the Town of Cary and current president of the MAPS Group.

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Employee Performance Evaluation 101

Employee performance evaluation is one of the least understood -- and most dreaded -- tasks of supervision. This SOG Human Capital Matters Webinar seeks to take the mystery and angst out of performance evaluation. We will talk fundamentals of an effective system, approaches to creating a credible process, and ways to have (and not have) performance evaluation conversations. MAPS President Rebecca Veazey will present, along with SOG faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis. This session will be useful to local governments seeking to create or improve employee performance evaluation processes.

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Reducing Workplace Stress: Strategies for Managers

Work-related stress is one of the most challenging issues organizations face today, with significant impact on the mental and physical health of employees and the efficiency and productivity of organizations. When viewed as an organizational issue rather than stigmatized as an individual fault, psycho-social risks can be managed just like any other workplace health and safety risk. In this webinar, Dr Darcey Terris will review the costs that arise from poor work design, obstructive management, and adverse social contexts at work. Real-world examples will be provided of how work can be redesigned through healthy leadership practices, creating supportive work environments in which workers are well-trained and motivated to perform to the best of their ability.

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Articles (5)

Formalization and Consistency Heighten Organizational Rule Following: Experimental and Survey Evidenc

News and Observer

Erin L. Borry , Leisha DeHart‐Davis , Wesley Kaufmann, Cullen C. Merritt, Zachary Mohr, Lars Tummers


Abstract: This study examines the attributes of organizational rules that influence rule following. Rule following fosters organizational effectiveness by aligning individual behaviours with organizational preference. While a range of theoretical explanations have been offered for rule following, the characteristics of rule design and implementation have received less empirical attention. Borrowing from the green tape theory of effective rules, this study examines the influence of two particular characteristics—rule formalization and rule consistency—on rule following. Three studies, which include two vignette experiments and a survey of two local government organizations, provide the data for the research. The results suggest that rule formalization and rule consistency independently increase rule following, with mixed evidence of interaction effects. The broad implication is that public managers must attend to both rule design and implementation to foster organizational rule following.

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Green Tape and Job Satisfaction: Can Organizational Rules Make Employees Happy?

Journal of Public Administration

August 7, 2014 ABSTRACT: Organizational rules are the backdrop of public employee life, with research suggesting both beneficial and harmful effects to employee morale. In contrast to the traditional approach of comparing employee morale in workplaces with higher versus lower levels of rules, this study examines the relationship between specific attributes of organizational rules and job satisfaction. A combination of three organizational rule attributes is expected to increase job satisfaction: consistent rule application (which conveys procedural fairness), optimal rule control (which suggests elements of self-determination), and rule formalization (pertaining to the written quality of organizational rules). Applying structural equation modeling to survey data collected from the employees of two local government organizations (n = 1,655), we observe a significant and positive relationship between consistent rule application, optimal control, and job satisfaction, but no direct relationship between rule formalization and job satisfaction. These results suggest that job satisfaction depends more on how rules are designed and implemented rather than the extent of rules in organizational structure. Future studies will need to account for specific attributes of organizational rules to fully understand the effects on public employee morale.

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Written Versus Unwritten Rules: The Role of Rule Formalization in Green Tape

International Public Management Journal

September 13, 2013 ABSTRACT:Contemporary conceptions of written organizational rules evoke images of inefficiency, constraint, and rigidity. While formal rules can generate negative outcomes, this article argues that their written nature is not the culprit. Rather, theory suggests that the formalization process increases a rule's likelihood of becoming effective “green tape.” From a rule design perspective, rule formalization is expected to trigger more organizational learning and greater scrutiny than unwritten rules, which undergo no such process. From a compliance perspective, written rules are expected to focus organizational attention and convey legitimacy better than unwritten rules, thereby increasing the likelihood of compliance. Combining these expectations, the article hypothesizes that written rules will exhibit more logical designs, higher compliance, and ultimately greater effectiveness than unwritten rules. Statistical modeling of two data sources supports these expectations and suggests the need to rethink reflexively negative attitudes toward written organizational rules.

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Bureaucracy and Public Employee Behavior: A Case of Local Government

Review of Public Personnel Administration

December, 2009 ABSTRACT: Government reinvention advocates assert that less bureaucratic work environments will spark higher creativity, more risk taking, and greater productivity in public employees. Although government reinvention remains a topic of interest to scholars and practitioners alike, these particular arguments lack empirical support. In response, this article tests the relationship between different forms of bureaucratic control (formalization, red tape, and centralization) and reported employee perceptions and behavior in local governments. Analyzing mail survey data from a study of the employees of four cities in a Midwestern state, this article finds that employee responses to bureaucratic control are not as straightforward as reinventionists expect. Different types of bureaucratic control are related to distinct employee responses, and sometimes these responses are the very behaviors that reinventionists seek to trigger by reducing bureaucracy.

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Can Bureaucracy Benefit Organizational Women? An Exploratory Study

Administration and Society

May, 2009 ABSTRACT: A significant body of evidence suggests that bureaucratized organizations provide greater career rewards to women than do less bureaucratized organizations. Beyond career rewards, are there ways in which bureaucracy can benefit organizational women? This study explores potential answers to this question by examining perceptions of bureaucracy held by public employees. Analyzing qualitative and quantitative data collected from the employees of four cities in a Midwestern state, the study detects pronounced gender differences in perceptions of bureaucracy, particularly with regard to legitimacy, efficiency, equity, and control. These results suggest ways in which bureaucracy can empower the participation of women in organizations.

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