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Front Page » July 27, 2010 » Opinion » As for some government employees...
Published 1,519 days ago

As for some government employees...


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

I was once one, actually for many years. A government employee that is. I got out because I got tired of the politics it took to survive in the jobs I had.

Now that doesn't mean the job I have now doesn't have its politics, but they are not internal, within the company. The politics I deal with now are different, somehow refreshing because if I want to say no to something I can. It's not always easy, but it can be done without risking my job.

I couldn't do that when I worked in government. It was debilitating. But not saying no to things because of political repercussions isn't the only thing that made it hard to work for the government.

Everyone who did the same job got paid basically the same thing, except those that had been there forever. It didn't matter how hard you worked or how well you produced, there was no more money for those that did their jobs over those that did little. Those that had been there a long time "had steps" too. Often some of the people with the most steps were the worst employees of all, but comically (black comedy that is) they made the most money.

Those same people also had the most vacation, sick leave and other benefits, which they used liberally, usually being gone at the busiest times of year and during holiday periods when the rest of us had to hold down the fort.

Of course it wasn't really that hard to keep things going when they were gone because so many of them didn't do anything anyway. But it was still like a big burr in your shoe each time they left. On the other hand you also hated to see them come back to work. Despite increased work loads, it was easier to get things done when they weren't there.

These people were also untouchable. I have often noticed that the people who work the hardest in a workplace, are the most productive and are the most positive about their work are the ones who are always worried about their job being on the line. On the other hand, those that do the least and think the organization owes them the most, consequently think of themselves as indispensable.

They are also the ones that often talk about what "rights" they have because they consider themselves special, for varying reasons.

There were some good things about working for the government from a personal perspective. It was stable (at least until this last year it was), there was always good medical insurance, largely paid for. Generally vacation and sick leave were very liberal too. The agencies I worked for or with justified those good benefits by saying their employees pay was generally lower than it would be in the private sector. Problem I saw with that reasoning was that most of the jobs we had in the places I worked would never have existed in the private sector. As for the few like jobs that did exist in private enterprise those private workers were often actually compensated at a lower rate than their government counterparts.

What sometimes galls me the most about some government employees is their empire building and the fact that they see the public as almost an afterthought of what they do. At times it seems they think they own you. Of course it is the government employee you may get for any one situation that determines the tone. Sometimes it is one of these untouchable ones, and things then go south fast.

Now don't get me wrong. Most government employees want to do their job right; they work hard at it. But as the years wear away at some of them they become hardened and forget from whose hand they are really fed.

These employees are called bureaucrats, a term I didn't understand too well until a number of years ago when I talked with a friend of mine who was a state legislator in Salt Lake County for three terms. The point came up one day when we were discussing term limits. He said he was against term limits. I asked him why (he was no longer in office, so that wasn't the reason).

He told me that in his first term in the house that he had gone to a state department to get something done in his district and they basically laughed at him. They knew he had no power because he was just a first term representative of the people, almost as powerless as a simple citizen.

After the next election, he asked for something similar and they dragged their feet so long that it didn't get accomplished during that term either.

In his third term, he became house minority whip, and when he approached them this time, what he wanted was done quickly.

"Without the power of seniority of our representatives, nothing would ever get done, because some bureaucrat, somewhere, would oppose it and that would be the end," he said. "The power lies in the seniority of the elected officials having precedence over long term government bureaucrats."

So imagine, in the minds of some government employees, how little power you as an individual have over what they do. They can give you flippant answers to questions, tell you to come back tomorrow because it's 10 minutes to closing time at some office you need to get something done at or enforce onerous rules and regulations to stand in the way of something you want to accomplish just because you questioned them about the way they are doing something.

I'm not sure what to do about this, but certainly it helps to complain to someone higher up the food chain, going step by step if necessary until at least you are listened too sincerely. Even when that happens, things seldom change.

Since the earliest days of civilization, bureaucrats have controlled much of what goes on in goverment. But I still believe if you fight the good fight there is a chance that one segment at a time, citizens can change things and make a difference.

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July 27, 2010
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