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I'm interested in people's thoughts on SNL's "Public Employee of the Year Awards" skit that aired this weekend.  Here's the skit on Hulu -

Did anyone see it on Saturday?  What was your initial reaction?  Mine was disgust - it showed little originality and focused on old stereotypes that I've long forgotten about since I started working here in DC. I also felt they could have done the exact same skit about virtually any white collar profession - Dilbert comes to mind.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there until I started actually working with government employees day in and day out, I would have totally felt the same way.  When my only interactions with my government was as a consumer, I dreaded it.  On the other hand, now that I'm working with government employees pretty much 100% of the time, I have a lot more appreciation for those employees who put in long hours, are dedicated to their mission, and who love what they do. 

No real message here - just curious as to what everyone else thought of it?

Tags: federal, gov20, government, government performance, human resources, local, snl, state, tv

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Unfortunately, this skit perpetuates the stereotypes of government employees. I breathed a sigh of relief that it featured only local government employees, but we are all partly to blame. Believe me, go to a DMV or a Social Security Office and you'll see that they aren't too far from the truth. Many government workers have no direct contact with citizens, but we treat each other with poor cuistomer service and treat others as if they are nuisances.

I'm not saying that I enjoyed this piece, but I am grateful that they are able to poke fun at government employees. We all deserve to be poked every now and then.
Some aspects of this video (ie. the DMV) really remind me of my interactions as a consumer. However, I feel that most workers on the local level are simply the "messengers". In other words, they are only acting off of training and standards passed down from the larger macro-structure.

Lets face it; you can't shoot the messenger. It is what it is. That is generally how I have to look at it when facing long lines at the DMV. (A good laugh nonetheless).
I regret having to say this but the skit perfectly captured my experiences when I traded in my Kentucky drivers license for a Maryland drivers license. The line was long, the staff was rude, and I spent most of my Saturday waiting for the license to be processed after I was sent home the first time because I didn't have my apartment lease. I found it especially ironic because one of my research areas is "street level bureaucracy" that deals with the culture of front-line government offices. I even started my government career as a paralegal in a public defenders office and here I was snarling about the rude treatment from these incompetent bureaucrats. And then the irony hit me.
DMV is always the standard go-to agency when you want show bureaucracy at its worst. However, I have noticed that no one is commenting on the slam to the unions the skit was making? I have to say that it speaks volumes.
@Mario: Good point! Given that every comedy show uses the stereotype of lazy union members, one becomes inured to the stereotype. And that is just wrong. Even on the various crime dramas, you rarely see a positive comment about the unions.
Eh, it's a little funny, but not precious ;) Many people have bad DMV experiences and bad experiences are good fodder for comedy.
Government's not the only sector with customer service issues. They could just as easily have parodied "Fast Food Employee of the Year" or "Call Center Employee of the Year" or [insert customer-facing industry here]. So it's annoying that they're perpetuating the stereotype of government employees...but it can also be a catalyst for change. Sounds like most of the respondents here have had bad DMV experiences. So why aren't we supplying our credentials and completing most of our driving transactions online, making these interactions unnecessary? :-)

By the way, we have a new group on GovLoop where you can discuss "Citizen Engagement and Customer Service."
I agree. Customer service interactions can be horrible in any industry and that should simply not be tolerated. However, If I don't like the service at a commercial company, I can choose to do business with a different company. That is not alway true for the government.

Thankfully, many agencies are starting to allow more to be done online. I renewed my Driver's license last year online in about 5 minutes. That experience was much better than standing in line.
I'm with Gwynne - it would have stung a lot more if the skit itself had been funny. But this skit, combined with the recent Pew report on lack of trust in government, illustrates the perception of government not being able to get things done is quite pervasive, especially when you get out of the Beltway bubble.

That's why I think the incentives portion of the Open Gov Directive is so important - if we build it (it being whatever mechanism for interaction with citizens) will they come?
Steve, first let me congratulate you on being bold enough to bring this question to the floor. I like Gwynne's comment, that “it was painful to watch”. In all actuality, each contestant represented a very specific area of truth in many many government agencies and or states across the country. The power of this piece was the message and the power of the video. Until Government Agencies come to a place that from the Acquisition community to the Secretary level and every GS 15 and above agree that government must re-establish its brand and invest dollars into marketing and rebranding their agencies, congress and the senate are always going to in some cases be unfairly accused of distrustful, lazy, and consumers of taxpayers hard earned dollars that have little to show after the investment. And the longer we have full unemployment, the louder and more divisive this distrustful gap will widen. I am personally (for the record) on the side of government workers who work hard. But I see way too much that is not changing on how government is failing to successfully engage especially small businesses to participate in solutions, services and products that can help to change the negative perceptions. I believe the OGD in its most mature and optimal form is government’s only answer for Change.

We at Open Government TV, (small business, minority owned firm) established ourselves for this very reason, to try and help government rebrand itself utilizing the precepts of the OGD. After almost 10 years of federal government business development experience, and nearly five years working in Government Whitman’s administration, where we under the administration abolished the Department of Commerce and formed an “in but not of market driven Commerce & Economic Growth Commission”. We operated like a corporation, had a CEO, a COO and there were 12 of us that were hired to represent 12 selected industry sectors and our results; we created 400,000 new jobs during that period of time. Some of the agencies especially like the Commerce Department (or at least the Minority Business Development Agency) should consider. The Better Buy Pilot project is as close as it comes to this market driven initiative and this is why I welcome supporting the expansion and advancement of this program. Its the best model I have seen to help Government change its brand depicted on this video.

Under the Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, we branded, marketed and targeted our marketing to industries that would create jobs.

It was under this market driven approach, that we attracted corporations like Shering Plough to move to New Jersey, Merck, Fed Ex, Continental Airlines to expand into NJ. Companies like Home Depot took advantage of our new brownfields policy (that I helped to develop the marketing program for). We should all, (particularly those of us in the Gov Loop community), find our selves continuing to idea share and then develop authentic collaborations. If we fail to, then in my opinion, (only because you ask for it), fail the President and his vision to have an Open Government.

The characters in this rather funny but shameful spoof are real people representing that they work for real leaders from agencies who typically have been politically appointed to lead because of their campaign efforts and contributions, but choose not (or even have the capacities to inspire, and implement innovation, efficiencies, and collaborative productivity models that empower, grow a professional's ingenuities and interests to excel.

Thats my story, and my experience causes me to stick with it.

Thanks for the ask Steve. Great question. If anyone wants to talk further, we can be reached at
202-449-7705, and we invite you to visit us at our ever changing (but not fast enough website)
Standard go-to gov't humor; still, pretty funny
This skit is not funny. Period. Why must mainstream and popular media perpetuate negative stereotypes such as this one about government workers? I have definitely had some poor experiences at the local DMV, but as a federal government employee, I'm saddened by the fact that people find this skit funny at all.


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