This article over at # Federal News Radio came out a few days ago. I’m not certain if the article has any substance. It talks about federal workforce veterans and their lack of or degraded # morale. From my experience working with these people over the last twenty-five or so years, I would say that their morale was neither more or less better than their contractor personnel.

Falling Morale

I would also say that throughout my employment working for # federales, it was dysfunctional organizations that were the true culprit of low morale. Now, sometimes that could be the result of a specific person or two. I would add that it is not always management’s fault for this dysfunction. There’s a reason why # Dilbert comics are still popular.  Scott Adams may have based it on his years at the phone company, but after the first few years of the strip, he was getting more and better scripts from his readers – many of whom were from the government sector.

   One of the early links in the article goes to The data from the link is probably accurate. What surprised me was the existence of the website. After a year of unemployment, state employment agency assistance, career coaching, etc., this was new to me. That hopeful feeling lasted as long as it did to click to a second page detailing the basic requirements to play in this arena. It seems that not all vets are created equal. Granted, there should be a hierarchy to types (disabled before wounded, careerist before short term, etc.) According to this website, those of us that fall under the ‘other’ category (served honorably, no special campaign) need not apply. 

So, more veterans are being hired now than in the past twenty years. So far, so good. But once they get into the system (I’m being polite – it’s more like a racket), after the back-slap, the ‘thank you for your service’ spiel, you’re now a willing member of the dysfunctional organization. And it’s coming after you. The organization

As any new employee should be, you’re upbeat, ready to do your part with great diligence for the greater good. But, someone will say, you can’t do this or that because you need permission, or some other excuse. In the military, you’d get in trouble for not accomplishing a task. In a #bureaucracy, non-accomplishment is a justification to request more resources. Only when a number of unfinished tasks grow to an identifiable issue does management rear its head. Management then capitulates to the resource demand (failure to plan), shifts blame back down the chain (failure to lead), or diffuses the issue across the organization (success). After a few rides on this merry-go-round, of course an employee’s morale will suffer.

That’s just the organizational side. There’s also the personnel side. For an institution created roughly seventy years  ago (!) at the close of World War II, it is amazing just how convoluted and obtuse a system to manage employees can become. Far too many rules, regulations, forms, and butt kissing to be listed here. Just complying with employee requirements can be a full time job (and I’m convinced that there is a GS position doing just that).

Then, there’s the internecine warfare of the workplace. One of the people interviewed for the article spoke of getting ‘blocked’ by management when trying to succeed. In any office culture there are the ‘golden children’. The ‘in’ crowd. Some of them may actually have skills, but usually do not. Management is like water – it follows the least resistance. In this case, the suck-ups insert themselves into the work chain, providing no added value, yet are able to direct the credit to themselves. Management doesn’t care who does the work as long as it gets done (thus making management look good).

Last, the article relates another interviewee speaking about the need to have a group of peers to rely on to deal with the issues in the workplace. Yet Another Special Interest Group. People have had to deal with crap bosses forever. Part of the achievement of work is learning how to succeed in spite of other people’s actions. The problems come when the hierarchy stack up against you – the ‘good ole boys club’ (Note: while still a ‘boys’ club, girls are making their own cliques). As with so many other areas in the life of bureaucracy and politics, transparency and truth will win out over the forces of evil (or ignorance and stupidity). Problem is, there isn’t much of those qualities going around.