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Policy implementation in stressful times: Analyzing coping strategies of civil servants (COPING)
Start date: Aug 1, 2013, End date: Jul 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This project focuses on coping strategies civil servants use when they experience stress during implementing governmental policies. Consider an insurance physician who has to reassess a huge number of clients receiving a work disability benefit, in order to check whether they are still entitled to this benefit. Will he cope with this high workload by becoming less thorough, handling reassessments quicker? Or will he cope by talking to his manager, arguing that he should receive more time to preserve high quality reassessments? This real-world example shows that insurance physicians can cope with stress during policy implementation in various ways. Policy implementation scholars note that the phenomenon of coping is very important, as some coping strategies seriously threaten the effectiveness and legitimacy of governmental policies. However, coping during policy implementation lacks systematic study. This project thoroughly analyses coping during policy implementation. It makes extensive use of clinical psychology literature, which has an strong track-record on coping. Hence, it follows a truly interdisciplinary approach, combining policy implementation and clinical psychology literature. It has three aims: 1) to construct a definition and classification of ways of coping during policy implementation, 2) to develop a related measurement instrument to measure ways of coping (using surveys), 3) to identify the main antecedents of ways coping (for instance, what causes a civil servant to engage in rule-breaking as a way of coping?). Literature reviews, interviews and surveys methods will be used extensively. 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 prestigious University of California, Berkeley and at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, a top European research university.
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