Hey Dave – very thoughtful post! I commented on Jeffrey's as well.
I think we all have – at some point in our careers – experienced moments when we didn’t feel appreciated in the workplace. But with or without applause, it is still our responsibility to understand our call to duty which is to serve the public. Such is the same with military families and the struggles they face. Do we know the faces and names of every current or former military member (several in my family) who sacrifice to protect us? While unbeknownst to the public, individually we have to remember the oath of office we all take when we enter duty – I keep a copy on my desk. 🙂
It’s not always a rose-colored journey – there will be sacrifices, misunderstandings, and moments of doubt. Yet, there can also be triumphs, satisfaction when the job is done well, and a humble truth that we can master when we realize we have been called to serve and simply to make a difference. Sometimes the thanks comes when you least expect it and sometimes you won't see it. But the truth is, the public isn’t concerned about what makes our internal procedures work or who didn’t get their pay raise. They just need us to do what we have pledged to do.
An unhappy workforce will inevitably produce less than desired results, but I think we all play a role in our environment. So, I don’t know if we are truly ready to answer the posed question until we look further within ourselves. We all know that coworker or two who don't have the highest aspirations and are content to just "get by." Given the circumstances of today’s economy and high-demand for jobs, I’m not so sure we have much to bargain with anymore. But yes, it does make you wonder what really impacts the numbers.
I think we can all benefit from learning what it takes to be happy and “How to Love Your Government Career” (I’m just as shameless as you!) And I do think you raise a valid question!