EU FP7 Marie Curie Fellowship entitled “COPING”


Main research question: How do frontline workers handle stress (cope) during public service delivery?

Working directly with clients can be stressful. Work pressure is high, resources are low and the demands of clients often conflict with the goals of managers or the policy rules. We study how frontline workers cope with stress. We also look at the effects of coping. For instance, are some coping strategies able to prevent burnout? Which coping strategies are beneficial for clients? At the moment, we are studying various groups of frontline workers:

– Social workers in the United States and the Netherlands
– Teachers in the United States and the Netherlands
– Healthcare Navigators  and Assisters in the United States (Navigators inform people about among else coverage opportunities for the Affordable Care Act)

What is coping?

Coping can be broadly described as the efforts you make to manage stress in your life inside and outside work. Possible coping strategies to cope with stress in your work are:

– Working overtime
– Bending or breaking the rules (when the rules are in conflicts with demands of for instance clients)
– Rigidly following the rules
– Cognitive restructuring (convincing yourself that some actions you take are good after all)
– Quitting your job (when it becomes too stressful)
– Talking to others about the stress you have

Some coping strategies are more effective than others. We aim to analyze which coping strategies are often used, and what the effects of these strategies are.

This project makes extensive use of clinical psychology literature, which has an strong track-record on coping. Hence, it follows a truly interdisciplinary approach, combining public administration and clinical psychology literature.


1) to construct a definition and classification of ways of coping during public service delivery (in short: which coping strategies are there?)

2) to develop a related measurement instrument to measure ways of coping (in short: how can we measure coping?)

3) to identify the main antecedents and effects of ways coping (for instance, what causes a civil servant to engage in rule-breaking as a way of coping?, what it the effect of working overtime on job satisfaction?).

4) to help organisations and people in choosing the most effective coping strategies, therey improving people performance and organizational performance

The project is innovative in two ways: theoretically (building among else a classification of coping) and methodologically (using advanced quantitative techniques very novel to the policy implementation field). It will be conducted at the University of California, Berkeley and at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.


  • Dr. Lars Tummers (Marie Curie Fellow)
  • Prof. dr. Victor Bekkers (scientist in charge at Erasmus University Rotterdam)
  • Prof. dr. Michael Musheno (scientist in charge at the University of California, Berkeley)
  • Related to the project: Evelien Vink MA (PhD-candidate Erasmus University Rotterdam)
  • Related to the project: Philip Rocco MA (PhD-candidate University of California, Berkeley)

Publications for scholars

Publications for practitioners

More information

Want to know more about how frontline workers cope with stress during public service delivery? Please email

This research is supported by a FP7 Marie Curie Grant (International Outgoing Fund) from the European Union.