Has stark financial realities shattered the cradle to grave security associated with government employment?

Posted on July 21, 2011


Government has a reputation for rarely firing people but instead lumbering along with uninterested employees who are only doing enough to get by. As the debt ceiling clock ticks down, it’s clear that these sorts of management practices are quickly becoming untenable.

from July 19th, 2011 Huffpost article Are Government Employees Giving 100 Percent? by Steve Ressler

Here we go again . . .

On the heels of a recent article I wrote which asked the question; Is a career in the public sector (re government) a good career choice?, based on Resslers commentary above the answer would likely for many be a resounding no.

In fact, and generally speaking, the comments I have received from throughout the PI Social Media Network’s syndicated following regarding my earlier article would seem to indicate that those in the employ of government consider the word work to be an anathema.

I am not certain that I would agree with this assessment in its entirety however, the debate is somewhat moot given the precarious financial conditions of most governments especially at the state and municipal levels.  In other words, there is no longer enough money in the kitty to maintain the tensioned balance between long-term job security and the delivery of essential services to the public.

In instances where such a conflict exists, what is most likely going to give way is the workforce side of the equation.

I know, there are probably many out there saying that any reduction, let alone a significant reduction in the workforce, will negatively impact the government’s ability to deliver needed public services.

Unfortunately, and like most of us who when driving past a road construction crew and see two workers standing idly by while a third does the actual work causing us to scratch our collective heads, this is an argument that carries little weight.  Especially in the face of Resslers reference to Paul Light, an NYU Professor of Public Administration, who recently estimated that the federal government could save an extra $1 trillion by cutting management and increasing productivity.  That’s right, the broad swath that is tied to cutting jobs extends well beyond the worker bee level to include management.

The fact that with the cuts, there would be an increased focus on improved productivity that would be tantamount to removing the two idle construction from the equation, makes a great deal of sense.  I mean what are those two guys doing anyway?!

While Ressler makes reference to four pat recommendations as to what can be done to attain productivity nirvana including; 1) Ensure that employee and manager expectations match, 2) Make work meaningful, 3) Foster productivity and innovation through unstructured time and, 4) Embrace constructive criticism, I thought that I would pose the question as to how maximized productivity can be achieved within the public sector.

So, how would you address the purported shortfall in public sector productivity and, the need to cut costs by way of massive layoffs?