Managers at the Department of Social Protection (DSP) cannot or will not make decisions, according to a survey of workers.
The survey of almost 4,300 department staff was carried out by Axiom Consulting Partners for a report into the culture and values at the DSP.
It revealed frustration among staff with their managers and concerns that decision-making is far too slow.
Workers also said there is a need for counselling as they can become stressed when continually dealing with customers who are in difficult circumstances.
The consultants conducted a survey of 4,234 staff and 42 branch managers, with over 2,000 respondents making additional comments.
The qualitative feedback states that some of the recurring themes include that decision-making is seen as far too slow and centralised, managers on the ground cannot or will not take decisions, and staff are not located where customers need them.
The feedback from staff also found that rural areas are being abandoned or there is a lack of investment in facilities and that many schemes could be significantly simplified to improve efficiency.
Another recurring claim was that managers are appointed to areas they know little about and that poor performance is tolerated.
The survey also found that worries exist that some colleagues can do the minimum and this is tolerated, people "pass the buck", and there is a lack of respect and understanding for different backgrounds.
Staff also said that managers are not visible or don't engage with staff and do not have the skills to operate in an open and effective way. They also said there is a lack of recognition of good performance.
The survey also found staff can suffer significant emotional stress due to their continuous interactions with people in difficult circumstances and that such workers should be offered counselling or other emotional supports.
The results of the survey also found there is a perception that leaders spend too much of their time focused on the Government to the detriment of the department's effectiveness.
The survey also found that frontline staff, in particular, take pride in their work, that the department is changing for the better, that staff are committed to overcoming challenges and many comment on their personal dedication.
A DSP spokeswoman said opportunities have been, and continue to be, given to staff to provide feedback on the consultants' report.