Sample Case Study of NYC Transit Authority: Mental Health of Frontline Employees

The NYC Transit Authority is experiencing low approval ratings among the users of its transit services. Various incidents involving the NYC Transit Authority’s subway and bus system have contributed to the fall in approval ratings. For instance, failure by some buses to reach their destination on time and other related minor inefficiencies such as improve scheduling of routes contributes to the reduction in public approvals (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). Notably, employees working in organizations with low approval ratings are susceptible to different mental health challenges because dissatisfied customers are likely to direct their anger towards NYC Transit Authority employees. For instance, the employees may experience physical assaults and constant verbal abuses from some customers reaching their destinations later than expected. The impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic are another factor contributing to NYCTA employees’ mental health challenges. The decrease in ridership due to the shutdown of New York City public transportation to control the spread of the disease has affected operations of the transit agency. For instance, many workers have lost their jobs, which have contributed to depression, anxiety, and stress, among other mental health problems (Goetzel et al., 2018). The unfavorable if unchecked, work environment at the NYCTA will lead to diminished performances and poor employee motivation, ultimately negatively affecting the agency’s reputation. Mental health problems can also contribute to high turnover rates, job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and diminished productivity. The primary purpose of this study is to examine the perceived impacts of low approval ratings on the mental health of frontline employees of the NYC Transit Authority.

Brief Description of the Organization

NYC Transit Authority (NYCTA) is a public entity operating public transportation system in New York City. NYCTA, which was established in 1904 as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has experienced unprecedented growth over the years (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The entity is one of the busiest and largest transit systems in the United States. NYCTA operates the subway and rapid transit systems serving all the boroughs in New York City through its underground transit tunnels and elevated transportation structures. Moreover, the NYCTA motor bus services account for about 80% of the city’s mass transit system (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The agency also offers transportation services to people with disabilities in the city. Overall, NYC Transit Authority keeps New York City moving every day through its efficient subways, railway, and bus systems.

Statement of the Problem

The consequences of low approval ratings can be massive on the mental health of frontline workers. Physical and mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, can reduce the employees’ performances and the NYCTA’s productivity. Notably, without proper mental health and safety policy system, NYCTA will struggle to contain the psychological impacts of low approval ratings. The agency does not have efficient intervention systems and strategies, such as counseling and therapy, sessions to help the mentally ill employees. Similarly, poor communication and management practices are major factors contributing to the current crisis.  For instance, NYCTA does not have a clear communication channel that it can use to engage customers on issues such as the possibility of transit delays to reduce the physical harassment and verbal abuses on the employees.

The Purpose Statement

The purpose of this research is to examine low approval ratings affect the mental health of the frontline employees of the NYC Transit Authority.

Research Questions

The research will focus on the following research questions;

  • What can the NYC Transit Authority do to boost its employees’ morale?
  • Why do you think the approval rating of the NYC Transit Authority low?
  • What are some of the mental health wellness techniques offered to employees by the NYC Transit Authority?

Significance of the Research

The research seeks to examine the challenges faced by the NYC Transit Authority employees and to create awareness of their mental health problems. Currently, the NYC Transit Authority’s employees are shouldering the burden of dealing with disgruntled customers. The employees are facing frequent incidents of physical assault and constant verbal abuse. The results of the research are important because the information will help the organization to develop appropriate responses and solutions to the conflict existing between the employees and the consumers. Specifically, the research will articulately illustrate some of the relevant solutions to the existing tension such as the installation of security cameras and security personnel. Besides, the study will be useful to different entities in policy-making regarding employee-customer relationships and the design of relevant policies that will guide and facilitate such interactions. Lastly, the research outcomes will be of great importance to other researchers and academicians who may find it useful in generating additional information on the perceived impacts of low approval ratings on the mental health of frontline employees.

Literature Review

The weak relationship between the customers and the workers can attract low approval ratings. According to Garcia et al. (2019), failing to please customers can attract negative ratings and reduce the consumption of products and services. Indeed, maintaining positive relationships with customers can be challenging, especially if an organization ignores the complaints of disgruntled employees and customers. Goetzel et al. (2018) reiterate that the disgruntlement can emanate from personality or professional conflicts between the employees and the clients. Indeed, the conflict between employees and customers can cause long-lasting problems for any company.

Various factors contribute to the conflict between frontline workers and consumers. First, according to Wang & Wang (2017), a lack of clear communication guidelines and management practices in a company may cause disagreements concerning the provision of certain services. For example, low control or limited participation in specific decision-making processes or changes may cause employees to struggle to deliver timely and efficient services to clients, causing conflicts between the workers and the customers. Similarly, according to Garcia et al. (2019), inadequate support for the frontline workers may demoralize them, reducing their ability to deliver quality performance, and this may annoy some customers. For instance, physical and verbal bullying, physical attacks, and psychological harassments between the workers and customers are some of the common mental health problems that can affect the performance of an organization. Business entities should develop proper conflict resolution mechanisms to control and prevent such tensions that may exist between frontline workers and consumers.

Organizations are responsible for protecting their frontline workers from mental health problems. Specifically, they should create and maintain healthy workplaces to enhance productivity and efficiency through various strategies to ensure the wellness of the workers. For instance, insufficient health and safety policies and guidelines may reduce the employees’ operational efficiencies. Such toxic relationships between the employees and customers can also reduce productivity without proper organizational protection. Besides, according to Zablah et al. (2017), a company should reduce work-related risk factors, such as lack of proper operational plans. Efficient operational procedures and policies can reduce conflicts that may arise between the frontline workers and customers due to poor performances and dissatisfaction. Besides, Wang & Wang (2017) notes that organizations should introduce proper mechanisms of addressing mental health problems irrespective of the causes. In particular, increased awareness of the workplace environment enables an organization to identify possible risk factors associated with mental health issues. For instance, employee and consumer surveys can enhance the organization’s understanding of the existing conflicts and complaints. In addition, according to Verleye, Gemmel, and Rangarajan (2016), involving employees in decision-making processes can convey feelings of control. In particular, the employees can use the opportunity to suggest efficient work practices and a healthy work-life balance. Lastly, according to Zablah et al. (2017), organizations should access evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive therapies, to address mental health problems, such as depression and stress. Employees need to feel supported to continue with their quality work performances and to limit possible conflicts with the customers.

This research proposal seeks to create awareness on how low approval ratings affect the mental health of frontline employees. The research recognizes that consumers are the lifeblood of any organization. The research will also examine how entities can avoid incidents that may cause any conflict between the employees and the customers. Lastly, the current research will also illustrate how proper identification of the personality and professional conflicts within entities can improve organizational efficiencies and performances.

Proposed Methods


The targeted respondents for this research include employees of the NYC Transit Authority. The researcher engages 100 respondents to ascertain how low approval ratings affect the mental health of frontline employees.


First, the selection of the research respondents was done using a random sampling of the NYC Transit Authority employees. The information and outcomes obtained from the randomly sampled respondents were enough to approximate the general sentiments of the entire population because they work in similar organizational settings.

Additionally, the researcher first sought an introductory letter authorizing the study from the management of the NYC Transit Authority and then contacted the selected respondents to schedule an appropriate time for the administration of the research process. The next step was to administer the questionnaires to the participants to collect relevant data and information on the research questions. The researcher ensured that the targeted respondents filled the issued questionnaires appropriately before submission. The researcher monitored the data collection process closely, allowing the researcher to clarify any issues that arose during the answering of the survey questions. Lastly, the researcher gave the respondents up to seven days to respond to the questionnaires because of different work schedules.

Research Methods

The research utilized secondary and primary data to attain the main research purpose. In particular, the researcher facilitated the collection of the primary data through questionnaires issued to the selected NYC Transit Authority employees. According to Bell, Bryman, & Harley (2018)surveys provide a relatively higher level of data standardization and can facilitate the adoption of generalized perception of facts. Similarly, according to Bell, Bryman, & Harley (2018), the questionnaire, as a method of data collection, provides high accuracy and convenience of obtaining data from the respondents. The researcher used both closed-ended and open-ended questions to allow the respondents to communicate subjective thoughts and perceptions about the research questions. Lastly, the researcher used secondary data collected through the comprehensive examination and analysis of information in various past works of literature. For instance, the NYC Transit Authority website was critical in understanding the company’s history and operations. Other research articles provided relevant information on the causes and possible solutions to mental health problems in organizations.

Measuring Variables

Given that the purpose of this research was to examine low approval ratings can affect the mental health of the frontline employees at the NYC Transit Authority, the independent variable is the low approval ratings and the dependent variable is the mental health of frontline workers. The research relied on a descriptive survey to measure the variables. For instance, the self-administered questionnaires facilitated the collection of pertinent data and information about the research purpose. In essence, a descriptive survey was appropriate for the research because it enabled the researcher to relate the research variables.

Proposed Results

The following are the results of research questions

What can the NYC Transit Authority do to boost its employees’ morale?

Table 1 shows the results of the respondents on how NYCTA can boost their level of morale.

Possible intervention Frequency Percentage (%)
Increase hourly wages 20 20.0
Improve workplace conditions 20 20.0
Enhance workplace security 50 50.0
Involve in decision-making 10 10.0
Total 100 100.00

Table 1.Boosting Employees Morale

The main objective of this research question was to explore some of the possible interventions that the agency can use to improve the employees’ morale. According to the results, 50% of the respondents favored an improvement in workplace security to control physical and verbal attacks. For instance, it was suggested that the organization can install more cameras and security personnel within its facilities. Overall, boosting employee morale will enhance customer value and improve the relationship between management and frontline personnel.

Why do you think the approval rating of the NYC Transit Authority low?

Table 2 below shows the results of the respondents regarding some of the possible causes of the NYC Transit Authority’s low approval ratings.

Response Frequency Percentage (%)
Poor customer service 30 30.0
Lateness 40 40.0
Improper scheduling 30 30.0
Total 100 100.00

Table 2.Causes of the Low Approval Ratings

According to the respondents, some of the possible causes of low approval ratings include failure by some buses to reach their destination on time, poor customer care, and improper scheduling of routes. For instance, 40% of the respondents cited lateness as the leading cause of friction between them and the customers, thus giving the company low ratings and causing the employees mental issues. Indeed, knowing the causes of low approval ratings will help the company develop appropriate strategies and responses to the identified situations, minimizing the threat against frontline workers.

Are there any mental health wellness techniques being offered to employees by the NYC Transit Authority?

Table 3 below shows the results of the respondents on the availability of health wellness techniques offered to NYC Transit Authority employees.

Response Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 0 00.00
No 100 100.00
Total 100 100.00

Table 3. Health wellness techniques offered to NYC Transit Authority employees

The researcher established all the respondents believe that NYC Transit Authority does not have proper health wellness techniques to solve the rising mental health cases among its employees. Some of these shared resources that aid in mental health wellness include counseling sessions and behavioral therapy interventions. These techniques can help relieve stress among the frontline workers and help them cope up with possible conflicts with the customers.


The results of research affirmed that most employees favored an improvement in workplace security, such as through the installation of install more cameras and security personnel to control possible physical and verbal attacks from customers not satisfied with the company’s services. Similarly, the result revealed that factors such as the lateness of the commuter trains and buses contribute to the low approval ratings, creating tension between the employees and the customers. Moreover, strategies, such as counseling sessions and behavioral therapy interventions, were found to be critical in solving mental health issues.

Nevertheless, the research is flawed. The most significant limitation of this research is that it only seeks to question the frontline NYC Transit Authority employees. Notably, even though the data collected using the questionnaire will be extensive, the aggregated information will be one-sided. Therefore, the generated results may not address the low approval ratings because the researcher failed to integrate the sentiments of the commuters. Future research can consider understanding the commuters’ perceptions of why NYC Transit Authority has low approval ratings and reasons for conflicts with the company’s employees.



Bell, E., Bryman, A., & Harley, B. (2018). Business research methods. Oxford University press.

Garcia, P. R. J. M., Restubog, S. L. D., Lu, V. N., Amarnani, R. K., Wang, L., &Capezio, A. (2019). Attributions of the blame for customer mistreatment: Implications for employees’ service performance and customers’ negative word of mouth. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 110, 203-213.’_service_performance_and_customers’_negative_word_of_mouth/links/5decb37aa6fdcc28370f0b2b/Attributions-of-blame-for-customer-mistreatment-Implications-for-employees-service-performance-and-customers-negative-word-of-mouth.pdf

Goetzel, R. Z., Roemer, E. C., Hogue, C., Fallin, M. D., McCleary, K., Eaton, W., … & Braga, M. (2018). Mental health in the workplace: A call to action proceedings from the mental health in the workplace: Public health summit. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 60(4), 322.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority. MTA New York City Transit. Retrieved from

Verleye, K., Gemmel, P., & Rangarajan, D. (2016). Engaged customers as job resources or demands for frontline employees?. Journal of Service Theory and Practice, 26(3), 363-383.

Wang, X., & Wang, H. (2017). How to survive mistreatment by customers. International Journal of Conflict Management.

Zablah, A. R., Sirianni, N. J., Korschun, D., Gremler, D. D., & Beatty, S. E. (2017). Emotional convergence in service relationships: the shared frontline experience of customers and employees. Journal of Service Research, 20(1), 76-90.