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Coping with Citizens and Stress: Interaction Strategies during Public Service Delivery within Health Care, the Police, and Social Work

Conference contribution
Authors Stefan Szücs
Andreas Liljegren
Johan Berlin
Staffan Höjer
Published in 3rd Street-level Bureaucracy Conference, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, June 11-13.
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Street-level bureaucracy theory, front-line workers, citizens, coping, stress
Subject categories Public Administration Studies


Previous research and theory suggests that frontline workers adapt to workload-related stress in a number of ways, interacting towards or away from citizens, or even against citizens, but what are the actual practices of coping, and how is coping related to stress? The data comes from a web-survey sent to 990 public sector frontline workers in West Sweden during 2018 within the police, health care psychiatry, and social work organizations. The findings show that there are significant differences in stress: highest average level among social workers, followed by police officers, and heath care psychiatry. Four ways of moving towards citizens – through prioritizing motivated clients, rule bending/breaking, instrumental action, or using personal resources – and three ways of moving away from citizens – through aggression, by rationing, or routinizing – are revealed. Prioritizing and aggression are most common within the police, rule bending/breaking and routinizing in social work, and instrumental action within health care, but only instrumental action does not significantly increase stress, on top of individual characteristics and organizational demands and resources.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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