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Opinion - Public servants stereotype: It is not at all about being lazy

2021-03-17  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Public servants stereotype: It is not at all about being lazy
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Noreen Sitali 

 

Stereotyping that public servants are lazy, inefficient, rude are unfortunately some of the negative inclinations towards public servants. Maybe Seinfeld’s Newman or Patty and Selma from The Simpsons had negatively stereotyped and influenced the already negative perception in sitcom that public sector employees were lazy and unapologetic. I have learned a great deal of what working in the public sector is really like and can address many of the myths and realities of what it is actually like.

Well, my take is that managers can make employees aware, too, of how much power they have to shift public opinion. When citizens report having positive interactions with public servants, they are three times more likely to hold positive opinions of government in general. Engaged public servants can move the needle of public opinion about government, 

Understandably, redefining these stereotype and improving employees’ moral can be attributed to the existence of a proper promotion system which is vital for attracting talented persons to public services and preventing them from projecting a lazy unfriendly image.

Lack of promotion systems has a marked retroactive effect on all the processes of personnel administration. It has a discouraging effect on recruiting and a motivated workforce. It tends to deter ambitious and capable workers from entering public service. It frequently causes the better type of worker to leave the public service for work in the field of private enterprise, leaving the public sector with an image of an unproductive workforce. It discourages workers from entering upon courses of training calculated to prepare them for increased usefulness in public employment. It makes difficult the maintenance of discipline and goodwill and enthusiasm throughout government establishments. As a result, it renders difficult the maintenance of high standards of individual and group efficiency.

Let me point out a few key areas which I would like to think that the private and public sector differ that make it difficult for managers to inspire and motivate their workforces, some of these could be an older uninspiring workforce, achievements that are often difficult to objectively measure in these environments and maybe the inability to provide, or limitation on, monetary incentives.

All of these differences can certainly impact the way government employees look at their jobs and as a result giving a negative perception to the public at large. 

We’ve all dealt with or heard about that one government employee who will make your entire experience trying to get some form of service a complete nightmare. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Most government employees are passionate about the work that they do and desire to help you get what you need. Unfortunately, that exception is what most of us use to base our opinion on government employees. And then, of course, there’s politics.

This is a place where career managers have to step up. Management tends to happen from the top down, but when you have new leaders coming and going every couple of years, it must also happen from the bottom up. Managers should feel comfortable speaking with newly elected or appointed leaders to help them understand the mission of the organization, the primary goals, ongoing projects, where the greatest progress is being made, etc. When an employee sees his or her manager going to bat for the organization as a whole, it can be comforting to know that all of the time you’ve put in on a project during the past two years won’t be wasted.

Let’s talk about “Slow to evolve”, while a public sector job can be very secure and offers some great benefits, it has often been accused of not driving innovation. Unless you are working in a specialized field, I would likely concede this point. Many public sector jobs rely on the use of dated technology or are many years behind private sector standards.

Government has to understand the primary reason why their employees choose the public sector. While it offers a certain amount of job security not found in the private sector, it can’t offer large bonuses, and gym memberships, and other perks. But, honestly…money and incentives are a motivator for any employees whether in the public or private sector. A bonus is nice since no one is allergic to money, but it’s not why they came to government, it’s not what will keep them in government….the important thing is to remove what demotivates employees instead of coming up with ways to motivate them.”

Of course, no one wants to do a thankless job, there are plenty of free ways to show employees gratitude for the work that they are doing. It would be worthwhile to review your institution/agency and determine what employees like least about their jobs, is it the time it takes to get results? An environment that doesn’t respect innovative, out-of-the-box thinking? A constant pressure to defend work or being made to feel like you are the problem? When government employees have a good place to work where they feel well supported, trust me, the perks and money of the private sector aren’t as important, (who am I kidding?).

A large union representation does play a big role, as long as leaders in both the government and union are willing to work together, this doesn’t have to be a de-motivator. For example, to help better engage and motivate employees, this helps better understand what the workforce wants and how it feels. So, no…, I don’t believe government employees are harder to motivate, all they need is a bit of appreciation and motivation here and there.

 

* Noreen Sitali is an information officer at the National Assembly, this article was written in her personal capacity.


2021-03-17  Staff Reporter

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