My PhD education has been a part of a research project at Kronofogdemyndigheten – the Swedish Enforcement authority (SEA). I have all along the education been working as an enforcement officer (kronoinspektör) at the SEA’s office in Sundbyberg outside Stockholm. The SEA is a public organization and one of the its main missions is to collect unpaid debts, if necessary with coercive measures. The organization proclaims to be customer oriented and in its internal communication the organization refers to all its clients as “customers”.
Early on in my employment at the SEA I noticed that none of my colleagues ever spoke in terms of customers, and mostly they seemed to grunt at the organization’s market-inspired terminology. This initiated my interest in the topic of my PhD dissertation: how public organizations, and not least the public servants working at the frontline level of public organizations, respond to the hybridity that occurs when public organizations adopt market-inspired elements, and how they manage the demands of the market-inspired elements in a public setting.
My findings indicate that public organizations respond to the hybridity by a procedure of emphasizing and downplaying different demands depending on topic and context. In other words, they may emphasize the demands of the market-inspired elements in regard to topics such as communication and external relations, while downplaying (or even ignoring) them in regard to topics close to the operational activities. This way the organizations avoid competition between the different demands of the hybridity. Among the frontline public servants I found that there are a few individuals who form the demands of the market-inspired elements to the public setting and may respond with compliance to the multiple demands of the hybridity. However, most frontline public servants perceive that the demands of the market-inspired elements conflict with their role as public servants and with the demands of the public setting. Consequently, they respond to the hybridity with ignorance or even resistance to the demands of the market-inspired elements. Hence, my findings indicate that the tensions associated with hybridity in the public sector might be unobtrusive and only detected when the hybridity is viewed from the perspective of the frontline employees.
I hope that my results will help the SEA, and other similar organizations, to improve and facilitate for public organizations and frontline public servants to navigate in an increasingly hybrid public sector.