Federal Connections – National Day of Service

Less than forty-eight hours to inauguration! But before then, I don’t want to let MLK day and the National Day of Service slip past unnoticed. As a federal government employee, service is at the core of my work. And yet, as several participants at a recent Federal Government Workers for Change meeting underscored, the image of federal government workers to many Americans is often anything but that of service. What’s going on? What are your thoughts on this point? What constructive suggestions do you have to improve the image of federal employees?

One person in the Washington area suggested that, in addition to the service activities some of us have signed up for on January 19, federal employees introduce themselves as government employees (or retired govt. employees, or however you wish), to five visitors from out-of-town who look lost (or even those who don’t look lost). Welcome them to our nation’s capital, and ask if they need assistance. In other words, we don’t have to be part of the “official” inauguration volunteer corps to welcome visitors.

I like this idea. It’s a small step, but it gives us an opportunity to present government with a human face, and to perform an additional act of service.

Let me know how it goes!

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Morgan Wright

Unfortunately, the good work of many government employees is seen through the lens of perception. This perception is not always based on actual knowledge – but media reports, blogs and actions of leadership. And when those actions have a negative impact, it paints the entire agency (to a certain extent) with that same brush.

When you talk about improving the image, it’s also about changing the perception. That to me means traditional media, outreach, social media, etc. Having a desire to change can only be realized when there is a capacity to change. Is not GovLoop an attempt at that, to a certain degree?

Who would be the keeper of the purpose? It seems a coordinated national campaign, appropriate insertion of news stories and outreach is one approach. How else do you change a ‘national’ perception? What is perceived is real…

Abigail Friedman

I enjoyed your post. Thanks. At first, I had trouble thinking through the distinction between “perception” and “image.” Until I thought about Barack Obama’s call for national service (and JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you,…” which really changed the perception of national service almost overnight. The image is something that, as you suggest, also has to be part of a coordinated national campaign, and I know that every federal agency works to advance this effort.