Who the hell are you to judge my worth?

I work in local government.
Apparently, this makes me:

  • lazy
  • unsuitable for to work in the private sector ever again
  • guaranteed not to be accepted onto temping agency books
  • looked down upon by private sector colleagues in the same job roles
  • behind the times
  • incapable of maintaining my own self development
  • incapable of keeping up with the ‘real hard working people’ over in the private sector
I work for a start up once. It had about 15 people or so when I started. 1 person in Payroll, no Finance, no HR, a few internal ICT support guys. No management structure to speak of. I started as a 1st line support technician, I loved my job and I worked my ass off. I worked so damn hard I blew the targets out of the water.
2 years later the company employed 500 people, had a HR, Finance and internal support team. It was contemplating floating and investment was flying in. There was a proper management team, internal training and support and a fierce team spirit which saw us all drinking, socialising and in some cases, my case actually, living together with some of the people we worked with. I was a Team Leader in my early 20’s managing 15 1st line technicians and a 2nd line tech too.
A year later the dot com bubble burst. The owner is now being investigated, quietly, for fraud, judging by emails I’ve received from American reporters a few years ago.
I’ve worked in the public sector since about 2003. 7 years. I’ve never been promoted above Administrator. I don’t drink with my colleagues. I don’t receive bonuses, or training to develop me in new directions, only to make me more useful to the organisation. There is no rest room to go and sit in with quiet music and pool tables. There is rarely laughter, there is no money, there is no opportunity of promotion because no one leaves the public sector until they retire or they’re forced to.
Don’t tar me and every other person who you know who works in the public sector with the same brush. Some of us have work ethics. Some of us don’t go home at 5pm on the dot. Some of us will work until 10pm if asked and most of us for the kind of pay you wouldn’t even get out of bed for.
I chose to be here because I believed I could make a difference. But don’t you dare be so arrogant as to presume you are better than me because you work over in private.
This post brought to you, not by any one person, or conversation, or situation, but from years, and I do mean years of feeling like a second class citizen for having some ethics I wanted to work by.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Wow, Louise – I’m sure this post will resonate with a lot of other members – at every level of government.

Andrew Ian Derksen

I feel your pain. I too left the private sector and was fortunate enough to wind up in government when no one else was hiring (something about a recession). What I find is that I had significantly better pay and benefits while working in the private sector, but I actually accumulate more vacation time while working for the state. In my experience, there are similar proportions of slackers and dedicated hard workers on the government side as there were in the private sector. We all worry about diminished expectation for promotions, stagnant pay, the total absence of bonuses, cancelled office holiday parties, and bitch about overcompensated executives who do not have those worries. Where employees in my old company used to worry about whether we would generate enough venture capital to push projects to maturity in just one more quarter, my co-workers now worry whether their budgets will be approved. The situations are analogous because people are analogous.

Jon P. Bird

Selfishness and jealousy always seem to rear their ugly heads when the discussion turns to salaries, the national budget, etc.

This is my “third” career and I’ve worked all over the world. I wouldn’t trade my present position for anything else, regardless of the money. I also have some private sector horror stories, including graft and corruption, but I won’t go into them here.

Kathy Sciannella

I have worked in private sector, state government, academia and now Federal government. Guess what? Same issues at all sectors. What I LIKE about my Federal government job is that I am treated better by my colleagues and supervisors. My work is actually acknowledged as being important to the overall organization and I have even been thanked by the customers I service. I did not see that in private sector, or academia. There regardless of how hard I worked (and I worked 50 plus hours a week, plus weekends and some holidays), no one ever acknowledged it.

Another thing I like about Federal government — there are rules which every one has to abide by. In academic, there was one set of rules for faculty and other set for the rest of us. Here, all of us have to abide by the same code, so to speak.

Like the others in this thread, I have my share of private sector horror stories. I love what I am doing, and I love where I am doing it.

John Amundson

I think it’s good for all of us to know how to articulate our value to anyone who has a legitimate inquiry as to the value of the work we are performing. If a person is in a large work unit and doesn’t have access to the details they might need to make a clear statement, I’d encourage them to ask about it at a staff meeting or during their annual review. Something along the lines of “how do we explain the value of our work when people ask?”. That said, it’s true that many people are not interested in a sincere conversation about that. they are venting, and mimicing people who are clearly uninterested in the truth. If nothing else its a pretty fast way to estimate the moral character and intellect of the person saying the things born of ignorance, right?

Christie Scott

Great post, Louise! I worked for two Fortune 100 companies before coming to the public sector. I let because I also wanted to find value and ethics in my work. I was smitten by the idea that public sector employees actually do the “right thing” because they are motivated to help other people and make their communities a better place to live. Their motivation didn’t derive from a PR stunt, or because it would boost sales.

I am the spokesperson for our agency and anytime my name appears in the paper – inevitably, someone attaches a comment to the story that I am a lazy, benefits-mooching, state employee.

Lori Winterfeldt

As a federal employee, I agree with a lot of what is said by others in this post. Like others, I’ve worked in various sectors and have found my niche in government.

Ed Albetski

I hear you, but as a part time actor, it is obvious you have never been to an audition. Our worth is being judged all the time, and usually by folks with less sense than God gave a grapefruit. If you let their assessments get to you, you will be living with pain for a long time, especially in this political environment where the inmates have really taken over the asylum. I always advise young folks to grow a rind and carry on. It’s the only way to get anything done. You sound like you care about your work; treasure that.

Jenyfer Johnson

As an old-time (27+ year) feddie, I understand where you are coming from but have to agree with Mr. Albetski’s comment…you’re going to have to “grow a rind” and not let the comments of the media and the public, who are spoon fed sound-bites from elected officials (trying to get re-elected) get under your skin.

Do what you do because you want to, because you love it, it’s your calling or whatever your reason is. We all have our reasons for working where we work and they are legion. Most of us are under-paid, under-promoted, under-trained and under-appreciated…it’s the nature of the beast. We learn to live with it with time and the growth of a very thick skin.