I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was a song made popular by the Rolling Stones in 1965 which was co-authored by the band’s leader, Mick Jagger. The message of the song is one of tension wrapped around themes of sexual frustration and rampant commercialism.

Fast forward over 50 years later and taxpayers are seemingly singing that same song. Based on an announcement from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, public satisfaction toward federal government service fell to an all-time low in 2015 to 63.9%, slightly down from 2014 levels of 64.4%.

My Department of Treasury came in the lowest among all major federal agencies for the second year in a row with a satisfaction rating of 55%. To add insult to injury, this assessment is nearly 10% lower than the federal government average of 64% and lower than the Department of Veteran Affairs who became the poster child for what is wrong with the federal government last year.

Kevin Sheridan, an engagement expert, has identified the sour spot of what happens at the retail level when customers receive bad service. He claims that one happy customer will tell, on average, five other people about their experience. With great customer service, we tell only five other people. On the other hand according to Sheridan, one unhappy customer will voice their dissatisfaction to ten potential customers who, in turn, tell at least ten other people. At the end of the day about 50 other prospective customers learn about the complaint.

What is the problem? It is much too complicated to resolve in a blog post. However, three things jump out from a motivational perspective that could be driving this “I don’t care very much for taxpayers” attitude that dominates the federal space.

Chris Hyer, another engagement expert, thinks it comes down from to the three following conditions that are missing from the federal employee narrative:

I don’t need someone standing over my shoulder “supervising” me all the time. Feds suffer from a paralyzing amount of micro-management buttressed by programs, policies and regulations that stifle creativity and innovation. Their souls have been consumed by a toxic bureaucracy that would rather your follow the rules than break a couple of them in order to serve the taxpayer.

We all want to be captains of our own ships by playing to our strengths and enhancing our ability to make a difference in the lives of our fellow taxpayers. Sadly many feds are stuck in jobs that highlight their weaknesses rather than their strengths.

We want our work to matter. We want to be up to something with our activities. We need leaders who can help us see how what we do is bigger than ourselves.

It all starts in the workplace. With engagement scores at rock bottom throughout the federal government, it is clear that we are not serving our second line customers who happen to be our colleagues very well. This malaise spills over into our interactions with our first line customers.

We have to win the game in the workplace before we can declare victory in the marketplace.

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