It is argued that many types of bureaucratic reform have entailed an extension or intensification of, not a departure from, bureaucratic control. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative case study which examines the impact of ‘new bureaucratic’ structures and systems on the performance and expectations of organisational subordinates. Such subordinates question the ‘price’ that has to be paid by themselves to achieve strategic visions devised and implemented by remote and faceless senior executives. This price is reflected in subordinates’ perceptions of the extent to which ‘cleaned-up’ bureaucratic processes impact on the achievement of their overall potential. Subordinates place emphasis on their immediate managers to act as a shield to protect them from the more extreme measures devised by senior executives. Such shielding strategies were found to comprise elements of directly ‘supporting’ subordinates as well as ‘softening’ the more negative aspects of the organisational environment.