Creaming among Caseworkers: Effects of Client Competence and Client Motivation on Caseworkers’ Willingness to Help

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Frontline employees cope with high workloads and limited resources by directing their work attention and efforts toward particular clients. Yet, the role of client attributes in the frontline employees’ efforts to help the clients remains undertheorized and empirically understudied. Using a survey experimental vignette design (2x2 factorial) among 1,595 Danish caseworkers, this article provides new knowledge on how two generic non-demographic client attributes—competence and motivation—shape frontline employees’ willingness to help their clients. We find that both the competence and motivation of the clients affect the caseworkers’ willingness to exert extra time and effort helping the clients. Specifically, caseworkers are most willing to help a client appearing both competent and motivated. Moreover, our data suggest that client motivation is more important than client competence for caseworkers’ willingness to help. We end the article with a discussion of policy implications and directions for future research
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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