Avoiding the “Jaded Fed” Syndrome


We all know them – the long (or short) term career bureaucrat, counting down the days (months, decades) to retirement, seething in negativity and boredom. These employees contribute to poor public perception, engage in bristly customer service and their negativity can bring others down with them, creating a toxic work environment.

Here are some tips to avoid ‘Jaded Fed’ Syndrome:

1. Jump on any educational/professional development opportunities

Seek out educational and professional development within your office, agency, the government at large and through your community- often times they are free or very inexpensive. Gaining new knowledge can empower you to continue innovating at your agency and prevent boredom.    A quick google/intranet search will often reveal multiple opportunities that may interest you

2. Take leadership on a new project/assignment

Are you frustrated with how things are done at your office? Have an idea to make things easier? Don’t assume that nothing will change because it has “always been this way.” Develop a solution and ask management if you can enact it. Often, government employees can get jaded by the day to day nature of their work. Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you reach out to management with solutions and ideas rather than just complaining about how things are. Take the lead and make it yours – you’ll feel more fulfilled taking ownership of a project, while also using your skills to improve the work lives of others: a win-win!

3. Use your vacation time wisely

After a satisfying vacation, I often come back to work feeling refreshed and re-energized. It’s not just me- scientific studies have shown that those that take vacations come back to work feeling more productive and satisfied. Whatever your ideal vacation is – laying on the beach in Hawaii, hiking to Machu Picchu, or skiing in Vermont – go! Don’t use all of your vacation time re-tiling your floor or doing yard work, go have the adventure or relaxation of a lifetime and come back feeling ready to take on the world (or that pile of work on your desk).

4. Get a part time job doing something you love

It seems counter-intuitive to work more to prevent becoming jaded, particularly when you are feeling overworked and jaded, but getting a second job doing something you have always wanted to do but could never afford to do full-time is a great way to challenge yourself, meet new people, follow your passions and bring this new energy back to your full-time gig. Look into becoming an adjunct professor at a local college, do freelance writing, start an Etsy page, sell your world famous cookies at a local farmers market, or become a tutor. Whatever your passion is, see if you can do it part-time, and watch your morale improve. Put the extra money you make aside for a dream vacation (see number 3)!

 4. Fake it till you make it

Sometimes you might need to force a smile when you are feeling yourself become negative or jaded. I recently encountered a toxic employee at my workplace and I purposely went overboard with positivity to mitigate the effects of her actions, despite the fact that I was feeling relatively negative myself. The surprising effect? I became more positive about the things I was faking positivity about! I became happier at work by pretending I was and speaking positively about things I would previously gripe about. Try it, you just might surprise yourself.

5. Seek out a mentorship opportunity

Most agencies offer some sort of mentorship program. Acting as a mentee can give you some useful advice regarding how to be effective in your position as well as ways that you can spark innovation in your agency. Acting as a mentor can be extremely fulfilling; passing your knowledge on to a less experienced employee can help break up your daily routine while also inspiring others with the lessons you have learned over the course of your career – maybe even preventing that newer employee from becoming jaded!

Try out these tips to stave off ‘Jaded Fed’ Syndrome – do you have any tips and tricks that I missed? Please share them below!

Samantha McCormick is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Hannah Moss

Thanks for these tips, Samantha! I like the idea of getting a second job when you feel you need an outlet. Volunteering is also a great way to get that outlet, but with a potentially lower time commitment.

Great first post!

Dave Barton

My organization certainly has mentoring programs, but I haven’t found one for my career field.

Does anyone know if there are inter-departmental mentoring programs out there?

Peggy Zieran

Great suggestions, Samantha. I am not a government employee, but having worked in retail for over 20 years I have experienced “Jaded employees” first hand. It takes a lot of work to keep your morale up and the moral of your team. I have used the “Fake it until you make it” technique on many occasions. It definitely helps to create a positive environment for your team and to keep your own spirits up. The next time you are in a retail store and meet up with a “grouchy” employee, kill them with kindness. It will turn their day around.