Coping During Public Service Delivery: A Conceptualization and Systematic Review of the Literature

Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory, Forthcoming

43 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2015

See all articles by Lars Tummers

Lars Tummers

Utrecht University

V.J.J.M. Bekkers

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Public Administration

Evelien Vink

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Michael Musheno

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Frontline workers, such as teachers and social workers, often experience stress when delivering public services to clients, for instance because of high workloads. They adapt by coping, using such practices as breaking or bending rules for clients, or rationing services. Although coping is recognized as an important response to the problems of frontline work, the public administration field lacks a comprehensive view of coping. The first contribution of this article is therefore theoretical: conceptualizing coping during public service delivery and developing a coherent classification of coping. This is done via a systematic review of the literature from 1981 to 2014. The second contribution is empirical: via a systematic review of the literature from 1981–2014 this article provides a framework and analytical account of how coping during public service delivery has been studied since 1980. It highlights the importance of the type of profession (such as being a teacher or a police officer), the amount of workload, and the degree of discretion for understanding how frontline workers cope with stress. It also reveals that frontline workers often draw on the coping family “moving towards clients” revealing a strong tendency to provide meaningful public service to clients, even under stressful conditions. We conclude with an agenda for future studies, examining new theoretical, methodological and empirical opportunities to advance understanding of coping during public service delivery.

Keywords: Coping, Street-level bureaucracy, Public service delivery, Frontline work, Behavioral public administration

JEL Classification: D73, D78, J2, J28, J58, J68, M12, M00, M12, O2, O32, O3

Suggested Citation

Tummers, Lars and Bekkers, V.J.J.M. and Vink, Evelien and Musheno, Michael, Coping During Public Service Delivery: A Conceptualization and Systematic Review of the Literature (2015). Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2552102

Lars Tummers (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

V.J.J.M. Bekkers

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Public Administration ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062
Netherlands

Evelien Vink

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA
Netherlands

Michael Musheno

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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