Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Good Enough For Government Work

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review asking an interesting question: why are government workers harder to motivate than those in other sectors?

Now, I don’t think anyone who knows me or has read this blog regularly would be surprised to hear me cop to occasionally being a bit harsh with my judgments about some of the decisions made by some people in government. Typically this is about decisions involved in determining how our system of funding and serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities operates. However, today I think I need to stand up for my colleagues in the public sector after reading through this article a couple of times. These are people that I know and like on a personal level. However, I found by placing myself in the public sector work environment, my personal opportunity to thrive might take a dent or two. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog at the moment (in the event of which wouldn’t kill trees), but you get the point.

Imagine working in an environment where you are portrayed as nameless, faceless bureaucrats; where you have frequent and abrupt changes in leadership with time limited agendas; where achievements are difficult to measure; where the workforce is older, yet more educated; where employees have stronger job protections making it more difficult for managers to address employee performance; where it is difficult to introduce perks and performance incentives; where unlike the private sector, union influence remains; and where your performance includes more public visibility. Decisions are not necessarily performed at the most practical level. It simply isn’t allowed. The article goes on to suggest how to compensate for each of the identified issues described above, and that is a nice thing.

So how do we measure up? I can say my colleagues in the public sector have people with disabilities in the forefront of their thinking when setting policy. I don’t think any state government would be considered nimble; able to adapt and pivot when the future demands. As the pace of our expectations continues to quicken, we all have to wonder if the public sector can maintain stride.

This being said, there is no reason not to continue to set the bar of expectations high. We do not do this for ourselves, rather for the individuals and families we serve. I will continue to single out and praise those individuals and agencies that do make the extra effort to ensure that their actions and edicts result in meaningful outcomes. I will set the bar high and demand that we all aim for going over that bar in all of our actions. What we do is too important not to shoot for that goal every time.

Then again, what do I know?

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