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The Impact of Shutdowns on Workplace Efficiency and Morale

As a recent retiree of the federal workforce, I was impressed with the dedication and patriotism of those I worked with in the conduct of their particular mission or function. Every day the men and women that comprise our Civil Service conduct a cadre of activities and functions that sustain the democratic essence of our nation. The public is largely unaware of the presence of the civil servant in making our country work at a fairly efficient level. It is only when the occurrence of an anomaly or problem outside of the norm does a negative headline or story appear. The reality that is seldom shared are the great things done by a highly efficient and diverse workforce.

It is my concern, over a period of years, there have been a series of events which are affecting the attitudes of those workers we depend on to keep our country operating.

An event from my personal experience which resulted in a noticeable impact on the workforce’s attitude occurred with the government shutdowns and potential shutdowns. The emotional toll of the uncertainty of events preceding the shutdown and the on again, off again nature of events created an intense emotional atmosphere. The actual stress experienced on the day of the handing out of furlough letters was impactful to the attitudes of all involved. There is no measure we can touch to reveal the true impact of this event. For me it was one of the most emotional actions I had in my career as well as the most negative impact on attitudes I had ever witnessed.

The environment of the federal worker has for quite some time been subject to an onslaught of negative comments and actions from the legislative branch. While there have been isolated legitimate cases, the real disservice is painting the whole workforce with a negative brush. These misguided and inaccurate accusations are impacting the ability of many agencies to attract the best and brightest candidates to the Civil Service.

It is important for those of you working in the federal sector to realize your contribution to making the government machine work. Despite the headlines and rhetoric directed toward the condemnation of the public servant, the facts reveal a completely opposite reality. Every day there are nearly two million patriots that make this complex government move forward in spite of the ridicule and politics.

From the perspective as a recent retiree, it is important for those of us that served our country to speak up and let those in Congress and the Administration know that a different approach needs to be undertaken. The threats of government shutdowns, the abuse of continuing resolutions, miniscule pay raises, and cuts to benefits must cease. If there are open, honest discussions; the decisions should result in a budget process that improves efficiency and promotes the value of public service. A change to this approach should make the work of government attractive to our children and future generations once again.

The clock is ticking in the current political environment with the upcoming legislative actions concerning the 2016 budget process. Are we once again on a path in early December to place our federal workforce through the stress of a government shutdown? Only time and a movement to open discussion will reveal the results.

What we can count on is, in all likelihood, the dedicated and professional response of a workforce that continues to deliver for the American public. The time has come for all reasonable people to demand the removal of those impacts that confront our federal sector workforce far too often. It is time for us to address the appropriate entities to make the necessary changes.

Darryl Perkinson 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.

This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated.

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Francesca El-Attrash

Thank you for this Darryl. You raise some really important points. I hope we can continue to dispel negative views of working in government while boosting employee morale as well.

Darryl Perkinson

Thanks Francesca for your comment and review. The effort to promote the service of our workers in all levels of government needs to be a continuing mission.

Mariah Bastin

You tackle a difficult dilemma within any agency or organization-the government is no exception. Thanks for sharing. Remember-you are not the only one struggling with this. Keep up the good work! Thanks for sharing!

Joe Raasch

Hi Darryl – thanks for keeping this perspective! The work we do is called civil ‘service’ for a reason: because we choose to serve. We all can be proud of the efforts we put in each and every day, many of us behind the scenes, to ensure services for our respective federal, state, and local customers. All: when battered by negative press, think about the work you do that improves people’s lives. It’s all worth it!