The Paradoxical Commandments of the Federal Government

Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard College when he wrote The Paradoxical Commandments. He wrote this guide during the turbulent 60s when student activists were turning to violence with sit-ins, direct confrontation and conflict with police. He saw a need for this document since many of these young people became disillusioned about the lack of social change they were able to create through these unproductive tactics.

The basic premise to Keith’s manual is that, no matter the challenge, it important to do what is right, good and true even if you feel unappreciated or come up short on the progress you seek.

As I read the commandments, I was struck with how applicable they are to creating engaged workplaces where everyone feels valued and able to meet their full potential in the federal sector.

Commandment 1
People in the federal government are sometimes illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.
Appreciate them anyway.

Commandment 2
If you do good things in the federal government, people will accuse you of selfish motives.
Do good anyway.

Commandment 3
If you are successful in the federal government, you will acquire phony friends and permanent enemies.
Be successful anyway.

Commandment 4
The good you do today in the federal government will often be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Commandment 5
If you say exactly what is on your mind in the federal government, you will be vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

Commandment 6
Great ideas are often shot down in the federal government.
Think big anyway.

Commandment 7
While the federal government may appreciate underdogs they follow the big dogs.
Fight for the underdogs anyway.

Commandment 8
Projects you have been working on for years can be torn down in one day in the federal government.
Build it anyway.

Commandment 9
People who need help in the federal government may attack you in the process.
Help them anyway.

Commandment 10
On some days in the federal government, your best efforts may get you a kick in the teeth.
Give your best anyway.

The simple lesson of these 10 commandments is this: satisfaction in these disengaging days as feds has to come from within, particularly when the good you contribute is not recognized. While we may not be as successful as we would like in our efforts to make the federal government the best place to work in the world, we can take solace in the fact we are in this fight for the right reasons; do good anyway for the sake of engagement.

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