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

Source: Lars L. G. Tummers, Victor Bekkers, Evelien Vink and Michael Musheno, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, January 12, 2015
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From the 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.