One side says government is too big and costs too much. Another side says the services provided are essential and critical to security and well-being. Stuck in the middle of continuing resolutions and possible shutdowns, are federal workers who know the value of the work they do and the back and forth is often just “guerrilla theater.”
Jim King, former director of the Office of Personnel Management, told Federal News Radio, that doesn’t help much.
“Well, they may realize it but, nevertheless, being viewed as a pawn on the chessboard of life is not exactly an upper.”
Everyday, said King, federal employees make sacrifices. “They sacrifice time, they bring problems home, they do their own research and reading, they work hard to discipline themselves when dealing sometimes with people who are very upset. Not with them personally but maybe what’s happening to them and they try to calm them down. Especially those who are on the front line.”
Another frustration, said King, can be found in recruiting new employees “and in the background you have this din of people chanting, ‘Aw, you don’t do anything. You’re not really important to America.'” When the American public tells those recruits, said King, that “really the work that they’re being recruited for isn’t really important; they’re just going to be another pound of meatballs on the counter of the restaurant here in Washington, I think that’s patently offensive and it distorts the reality of the situation.”
King said his vantage point this time, from outside the Beltway, has given him new insight to some of the problem. “I must say that watching it from out here, it’s rather interesting because the comments are so detached from any reality I know. But, I must say, my friends here outside of Washington have no real appreciation of what’s done on a day-to-day basis with the government.”
King encourages federal managers to remind their employees about the mission. Don’t stop, said King, “reassuring them how important their work is, what they do for the American people, and the criticality of doing the job well, and above all is being kindly to people. Quite often in this process, you get angry, you’re disappointed, you’re frustrated and you take your anger out on your colleagues but you also take it out on the customer. And at the end of the day, the customer service side, and the time you pick up the phone, being as kindly and supportive as you’ve been in the past – continue to do it. Don’t let a few people irritate you and forget about the millions of people relying on you.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.