Skip to Main Content

Whatever it Takes: Sexual Harassment in the Context of Resource Dependence

Journal Title Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Published Date March 09, 2021
Research Topic


Research suggests powerful resource dependencies are present in the public and nonprofit sectors. The individuals operating at the nexus between organizations and resource providers, and who mitigate dependencies, are referred to as boundary spanners. This study, published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, suggests that there may be both positive and negative personal repercussions for boundary spanners, but research has not sufficiently examined these unintended consequences through a gender lens. Bringing together research on resource dependence and sexual harassment, this study explores sexual harassment as an unintended consequence for boundary spanners of resource dependence mitigation strategies. Drawing on a feminist methodology and purposive sampling, we engaged in interviews with 36 professional fundraisers, a quintessential boundary spanning role, to examine the problem of sexual harassment by donors. These experiences leave fundraisers feeling harassed by donors and exploited by employers that pressure them to do “whatever it takes” to obtain donations. We contribute to research on resource dependence by surfacing sexual harassment and exploitation as unintended consequences for boundary spanners of strategies to mitigate organizational resource dependence. Our findings assist in reconsidering the assumptions that underly resource dependence theory and related research.

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 31, Issue 4, October 2021, Pages 617–633,