“When they say 2% milk, I don’t know what the other 98% is.” Andy Dwyer from Parks & Rec
How many government employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?
- Evidence based qualifiers indicate the necessity under Article 5852.987.001 of the Bulb of Lights Amendment is to administer a tiered employee iteration process to facilitate proper illumination functionality.
- “Dammit Jim, I’m a govie, not a miracle worker!”
- None of the above – private contractors are hired for this type of task.
We know the answer, don’t we, fellow govies? Let’s face it – government employees have been the butt of jokes since, well, the dawn of governments and butt jokes. I bet there is a hieroglyphic somewhere depicting a department of wheeled vehicles line that stretches out of the Temple of Zeus with a “gone to lunch” sign.
Jokes are fine. Part of our undocumented job description is “tough skin.” If you have read any of my previous posts, you know I love jokes! However, the greater the influence of government-styled stereotypes depicted on the trillions of extremely addictive liquid crystal displays have on subsequent generations, the more difficult our actual jobs become. As a communicator for a local government, a considerable challenge we face daily is to obtain then maintain public trust. While I would work for Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope in a heartbeat, I have never met the likes of her, or anyone else in Parks & Rec, in my eleven-year career in a government office. Last time I checked our staff directory (and my brain), no fictional characters had been hired.
The lines between reality, reality TV and fictional sitcoms, dramas or movies are now so pixelated that many believe DNA results take no longer to produce than the hour it takes to watch CSI or Law & Order. Or that DMV workers are trained by Zootopia sloths. The real reality (and, no, I cannot believe I just wrote that) is that it often still takes less time to produce a full season than to receive results back for a local police department investigation. And organizations like GovLoop, GovTech, and Alliance for Innovation successfully discover and implement efficiency advancements for both the employee and the end user at all levels of government service.
Similar lines are blurred with the “if it bleeds it leads” philosophy prevalent in news cycles. The number of stories centered around corrupt government agencies and employees far outweigh ones showing every day employees answering hundreds of calls without a single curse word, purchasing departments working diligently to save taxpayer dollars or streets crews stopping to help a stranded motorist. On top of all of that – add the wild, wild west reign in social media?!
This is a battle fought on more front lines than can be summed up by even the best metaphorical wordsmith. #Notgonnadoit
How do we combat something so far out of the realm of our control? As much as I wish I had the consummate answer, I am reminded of a speech by National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia from 2015. There is no “single thing” to fix it and those who believe the stereotype are not the enemy.
I am the government employee. It’s up to me to inform our constituents that one govie can, in fact, screw in a light bulb in a timely fashion at a fair price to provide the light requested. It’s a long and winding road, but it is the right one.
My best tool is authentic communication. What’s yours? How do you defy the stereotype and push back against the misconceptions about government employees? Leave comments below and let’s get a conversation going!
Kathleen Vaught 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.