Monday, October 7, 2013

The worst rise to the top...

When you don't treat your workforce well you lose high quality workers. Federal workers have lived with almost four years of pay, hiring, and promotion freezes. Many agencies have had furloughs this summer and all are experiencing some level of furlough now. Oh, and a large portion of the public - frothed up by extremists in the GOP - act like the work they do is worthless.

That's not an environment that people with outside options like to stay in for very long, and the people with outside options are the high quality workers.

Kate just heard of a third case of one of the more competent workers in her department leaving for the public sector since the beginning of this sequester mess a couple months ago. No hiring, still. Which means more work for her when she gets back from maternity leave. Precious little appreciation except from some of her superiors who can only show appreciation when they get a chance to catch their breath from all the work there is to do.

It's not a good situation, and the eventual result of all this is that the worst will rise to the top.

Shutdowns, sequesters, pay freezes, etc. make for bad governance.

15 comments:

  1. A lot of the work that is done by government employees is worthless (and often downright awful from a standpoint of human decency).

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    1. I have no doubt that some government employees are not personally very productive and I have no doubt that some of the work by productive employees provides no benefit for the nation but it is functioning government that separates us from pest holes like Russia, India, Somalia ...

      It is probably not accident that those parts of America which are the most anti-government also tend to be the poorest.

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    3. There is a big difference between a "functioning government" and government that we have.

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    4. The American government could do better, it is even arguable that it could do much better, but it is functioning.

      Nihilism is for the very young, the very naive and the deeply alienated.

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    5. I imagine our government is more functional than most of the governments in Europe, as well. I doubt that it is anywhere near as functional as the typical US corporation. I doubt they have employee teams using LEAN techniques to find ways to eliminate jobs and increase efficiency.

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    6. Nihilism? I don't believe you understand the meaning of that term. I am after all not arguing that life is without objective purpose (indeed, in arguing that the state engages in all sorts of awful activities I am stating something quite different).

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  2. "Kate just heard of a third case of one of the more competent workers in her department leaving for the public sector since the beginning of this sequester mess a couple months ago."

    I thought that the U.S. Federal Government and many state governments were laying off public employees...

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  3. I'm currently a full-time federal employee. I am also pursuing a Masters degree in Public Policy, which I will finish in May '14. Soon I will be overqualified and underpaid at my current position and therefore the process of finding another is underway. Do I stay in the federal government, or leave for the private sector? There are benefits to each - higher pay and perhaps more dynamic opportunities on the one hand, strong benefits, stability and security, and the moral benefit of public service on the other.

    Does the fact that I am on my second week of unpaid furlough enter my decision process? Hmmmm...

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    1. Squarely Rooted wrote:

      "...and the moral benefit of public service on the other."

      Can you elaborate on that? For example, would you say the service of a public school teacher is morally preferable to that of a private school teacher (all else equal)? Or are you saying in general, all else *won't* be equal if you look at people who choose between a career in public vs private sector?

      I'm not trying to change your mind, I genuinely want to understand what made you type that.

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    2. Bob,

      Yeah, it is a rather strange way to bifurcate life.

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  4. Daniel, when Kate gets promoted you'd better hope no one sends her this post.

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  5. I agree that the federal workers are being treated poorly and that it can have negative consequences. I’m less sure that employee retention problems will be as high as one would expect.

    My company has eliminated around 40% of employees (around 40,000 total) nationwide in the past 4 years and recently announced plans for an additional 20% cut of the workforce. Hiring freezes, 1 – 2% annual raises, with lots of work being dumped onto the remaining employees. Company revenue has doubled over that period. The site I work at has had a 39% workforce reduction along with more than doubling our output. This has resulted in terrible morale. I hear a lot of people talk about leaving, but only one has left voluntarily in the past 4 years.

    Geographic mobility is probably the biggest factor. If there's a spouse, you have to find two jobs. You leave your friends, may not like the new city, may have a home to sell or kids to move. I would expect that positions with skills that are in demand locally are the most vulnerable to people leaving. Another big factor is vacation time and years towards retirement. Once you hit a certain age, vacation time means a lot more and starting over at building time towards retirement benefits sounds like a drag.

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  6. Having the best and brightest collecting market wages in the private sector ain't the worst thing in the world, imho.

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