The Agency Psychology of Sustained and Prolonged Poverty Exposure on Public Administrators in Nevada

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Street-level public administrators, particularly welfare and social services professionals, working in direct contact with and delivering welfare benefits to the indigent public, expose themselves to chronic poverty daily and for some public service employees, throughout their careers. Over time, the public administrator’s sustained and prolonged exposure to clients’ poverty experience could have an impact on his or her behavioral, psychological, and physiological well-being, which, in turn, could affect a public agency’s ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently to the public. This study examines the impacts of working with impoverished clients on a public administrator’s level of effectiveness and the severity of burnout. The focus of this research was to determine whether there is any relationship or correlation between (a) a public administrator’s duration in working with an impoverished population and the level of effectiveness, and (b) a public administrator’s duration in working with an impoverished population and severity of burnout. This study reviewed existing public administration literature through the lens of poverty scarcity theory and the motivation theory burnout model and identified a gap in the body of public administration literature for the agency psychology of sustained and prolonged poverty exposure of public administrators to impoverished clientele. The researcher employed the quantitative research method and research design of the survey, specifically the Maslach Burnout Inventory—Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS). The study was able to identify a statistically significant correlation and relationship between public administrators working for the study’s public organization and welfare agency with the MBI-HSS burnout subscale Emotional Exhaustion (EE), which was substituted as a synonymous measure of burnout. This research could provide insight to public leaders, public policy makers, and public organizations on the wicked problem and challenges of poverty that public service employees must face when serving an indigent clientele. The results of this study could help public leaders and human resource management (HRM) professionals understand the agency psychology of sustained and prolonged poverty exposure in order to manage HRM issues in organizational life and workplace environments by recognizing, monitoring, intervening, and/or addressing early onset of burnout in public service employees who serve impoverished populations.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration, Public Policy