Category Archives: Public Administration

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.

Workplace psychosocial factors associated with hypertension in the U.S. workforce: A cross-sectional study based on the 2010 National Health Interview Survey

Source: Harpriya Kaur, Sara E. Luckhaupt, Jia Li, Toni Alterman and Geoffrey M. Calvert, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 57 Issue 9, September 2014
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From the abstract:
Objective: To explore associations between self-reported hypertension and workplace psychosocial factors that are common among U.S. workers and to identify industries and occupations (I&Os) that are associated with a high prevalence of hypertension, even after adjustment for common known risk factors. …

Job insecurity and hostile work environment were significantly associated with hypertension. Hypertension prevalence was significantly elevated among those employed in Healthcare Support occupations and Public Administration industries.

Addressing hostile work environments and the stress associated with job insecurity may improve workers’ health. Other occupational factors that contribute to the variation in prevalence of hypertension by I&O should be sought. …

The Relationship Between Short-Term Political Appointments and Bureaucratic Performance: The Case of Recess Appointments in the United States

Source: Susan M. Miller, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, First published online: August 11, 2014
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From the abstract:
Within the bureaucratic performance literature, a growing body of work focuses on the relationship between the character of an administrator’s selection—career administrators versus different types of appointees—and bureaucratic performance, finding that programs managed by political appointees are associated with lower performance scores than programs managed by career professionals. One aspect of administrators’ selection that has not been considered in connection with bureaucratic performance is whether the appointee was installed via recess appointment. Because their limited and uncertain tenures may cause administrative problems and because the unilateral nature of their selection may lead executives to prioritize other characteristics over competency, I theorize that recess appointees will be associated with lower program performance than non-recess appointees and careerists. Using Program Assessment Rating Tool scores from the George W. Bush administration, I find support for this expectation. This article contributes to our understanding of the ways in which staffing through recess appointments may shape government administration.

A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop It

Source: Paul C. Light, Brooking Institution, Strengthening American Democracy, Number 93 of 94, July 2014

From the summary:
In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?…

….The cascade of failures described in this paper parallels other trends over the past three decades, including the steady aging of the federal government’s infrastructure and workforce; growing dependence on contractors; ever-thickening hierarchy; dwindling funds, staffing, and collateral capacity, such as information technology and accounting systems; increasing frustration with poorly drafted policy; presidential disengagement; and political posturing. These trends help explain much of the cascade, although it remains to be seen what might have sparked the patterns in the first place. It could be that bureaucracies are inherently vulnerable to failure regardless of funding, hierarchy, dependencies, and public angst toward big organizations of any kind. It could also be that the cascade reflects errors of omission and commission by Congress and the president, and the flood of what Alexander Hamilton called the “deadly adversaries” of government: cabal, intrigue, and corruption. ….

Incentive Pay Practices Survey: Non-Profit/Government Organizations

Source: WorldatWork (Total Rewards Association) and Vivient Consulting, February 2014

…More than 175 participants from non-profit and government organizations responded to the survey, as did 190 participants from private, for-profit companies. Because of the large response from the sectors surveyed, 2 separate reports have been published: this report, “Incentive Pay Practices Survey: Non-Profit/Government Organizations,” and “Incentive Pay Practices Survey: Privately Held Companies.” …

… U.S. non-profit and government organizations continue to use short-term cash incentives to motivate and reward employees, and to compete for talent, according to the 2013 Vivient Consulting and WorldatWork survey, “Incentive Pay Practices Survey: Privately Held Companies. … In 2013, 78% of non-profit and government organizations reported using short-term incentives (STIs), while 16% reported using long-term incentives (LTIs)…. Of the non-profit and government respondents, 76% are non-profits, such as charitable and education organizations. The remaining 24% of respondents are public-sector organizations, such as state, local and federal government entities. The most common industries represented in the survey are health care and social assistance (46%); educational services (14%); and public administration (10%)….

Forget Technology; Denver Turns to Its Employees to Fix Problems

Source: J.B. Wogan, Governing, February 2014

Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver looks to its own employees for simple, straightforward reforms. …

…In Denver city government, this is what an innovator looks like: White-haired, dressed in light blue scrubs and wearing a pair of sneakers, Tara Morse works as an animal care supervisor. Each day, she conducts about a dozen examinations of new dogs and cats that arrive at the Denver Animal Shelter. Not long ago, Morse came up with a simple idea to save her agency about $75,000 a year.

When pets get reclaimed by their owners, they’re usually collected in fewer than 15 days. After that, the owners rarely turn up. Yet city and county policy dictated that the agency hold animals for 30 days before trying to place them in another home. The longer they stayed, the more their health deteriorated. And as their health worsened, their chances of being adopted dropped as well. Morse recommended a new policy of 15 days. The result was just what Morse had predicted: cheaper, more effective care.

Morse was putting to use skills she learned at the Denver Peak Academy, a city-run training program, housed within the mayor’s budget office, that teaches municipal employees analytical methods to improve their daily work. Graduates apply those lessons toward improvements within their home agencies….

Cities throughout the country are creating offices tasked with spurring innovation. But the Peak Academy represents a different strain. Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver is turning to its ground-level employees for simple, straightforward reforms. More than a suggestion box, the academy provides a structured ongoing process for soliciting new ideas and making sure they happen….

Negotiation. Lost art or core competency?

Source: NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement, 2013

Negotiation is a valuable skill for procurement professionals. Negotiation is a standard method of contracting in federal, state and local government procurement. Although the internet facilitates research and fact finding that supports the formulation of sound negotiating positions, the negotiation process itself is a proven method for arriving at best value sourcing outcomes.

Procurement professionals need to know how to prepare and plan for negotiation in order to achieve win-win solutions. Skilled negotiation can improve outcomes for the government. Improved pricing is just one potential benefit. Negotiation can improve the overall combination of quality, service and other elements required for successfully meeting the organization’s requirements.

2012 NIGP Compensation Report

Source: NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement and Public Procurement Research Center (PPRC), 2013

Understanding the developments in compensation structures within any profession is critical when constructing a strategic framework for the field’s future. The significant changes in the nature of governance of the last decade have imposed additional and increasingly more complex demands on public procurement specialists. Whether these increased demands are reflected in the levels of compensation could in large part dictate the pool of talent that local and federal governments will have available in terms of selecting their workforce. The research presented here is part of the popular Public Procurement Compensation Series and investigates, from an organizational perspective, the most recent compensation levels within the profession. The two-fold purpose of this research is to offer a snap shot of the compensation levels across several dimensions and to provide practice-driven and useful compensation benchmarks. …

… A total of 319 American and Canadian agencies have participated in this edition of the survey. Based on their responses three primary trends were identified. First, bonuses have not been a prevalent part of compensation in 2011 or 2012; however, in 2012 agencies were more likely to offer bonuses to their employees. Second, after an accentuated dip from 2008 – 2010, salaries for most positions have been experiencing a recovering trend. Outside a small number of exceptions, reported compensation levels have not reached their previous peaks. Finally, a large proportion of agencies are asking their procurement specialists to work overtime without additional pay…