Public Service Recognition Week: Yay! or Yawn?

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  Erin Duggins 8 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #160844

    Each week, GovLoop teams up with the Washington Post to wonder what’s on the minds of government employees like you. This week’s question is…

    Public Service Recognition Week:
    Yay! or Yawn?

    First off, if you haven’t heard of Public Service Recognition Week (affectionately known as PSRW), then you might want to respond with a yawn.

    If, however, you wait with baited breath every year for that one week when everyone stops and asks you to take a bow, you may tell us so below right now.

    Of course, then there’s the reality of your agency’s reaction:

    Anything special happening in your workplace to honor the efforts of you and your colleagues?

    How much of a difference do you believe this week can make when it comes to the public’s perception of federal workers?

    As always, feel free to weigh in via the comments or send me an anonymous email at [email protected] and I’ll post without attribution. You may also submit your reaction directly at the Washington Post.

    By the way, you might also like GovLoop’s past efforts at acknowledging PSRW:

  • #160910

    Erin Duggins

    Unfortunately, I don’t even think that PSRW hit many agencies’ radar screens.

  • #160908

    Mark Hammer

    There is an annual National Public Service Week here in Canada in the middle of June. I can’t really speak to more than the rather banal activities of my own agency (service awards, volleyball game, barbecue), but I commute with people from other agencies and I’ve never heard anything from them that made me jealous. The general ambiance is that it feels kind of forced, like being dragged to the wedding anniversary of a couple you don’t know very well: the food will be acceptable, and the people pleasant enough, but not the sort of thing you’d spontaneously seek out.

    I’m curious to see what will happen this year, given that the entire PS is undergoing cutbacks, and hiring freezes. There is a chill of uncertainty in the air. Makes one wonder how it will be pitched this time and whether individual agencies that have been hit hardest will try and pretend like everything’s normal, downplay things this year, or take extra steps to instill hope.

    From a more objective organizational research perspective, it’s actually an interesting scenario: how do organizations handle “traditions” predicated on better times?

  • #160906

    Paul Alberti

    Yawn … we got a nice memo from our Secretary on how proud she was to serve with such dedicated people; really inspired my week. Nor have I seen any posters, banners or coffee corners from senior execs. Kind of just passing by – maybe the funding was cut or it is an off year for Public Service appreciation. Or maybe people are just so jaded and burnt by another “Week of ..” or “Month of …..” Or maybe when Congress and the media keep denigrating federal employees as lazy, incompetent and can’t really work in the real world, kill pay raises for five years and increase deductions to “make it fair with our private sector peers” – it is hard to get excited over a week long recognition.
    These recognition weeks/months are supposed to draw attention to a particular issue, but when every week is another issue or cause – my cause meter is just pegged out at 0.

    Honestly, my peers and I really want to do good thngs, we want to solve those big issues, keep America safe, make America great, we do want to be innovative and think outside the box. But all we can do is enforce what Congress legislates based on thier rules and funding. Federal employees did not create this mess – but we seem to be the clean up crew … again.

  • #160904

    Peter Sperry

    Whoa, all these commemerative days, weeks and months are critical to the self esteem of those so honored, How would they ever be able to thnk well of themselves if there was no reminder on the calander to tell the world of their importance. Besides, I would hate to think that all the work I put in during the 80s gaining cosponsors for my boss’s bill to establish “Dairy Goat Appreciation Week” had been wasted.

    Yes it was a real bill and yes we managed to get it enacted.

  • #160902

    Sterling Whitehead

    I was given a lollypop as I walked in. Seriously. There have been some emails, but that’s about it.

  • #160900

    Tracey Harriot

    We must work for the same Department, as I received a similar email.

    Along with that, I agree 100% with everything you said. Too hard to get engaged with any of the causes as there is a new one each week!

  • #160898

    Brett de Boisserre

    I little different in local government, but we’ve had refreshments all week. I’m not sure of how much of a difference it can make on a broad scale. Individually, I’m sure it’s lighting up someone’s day.

  • #160896

    All such activities, had they existed prior to my recent arrival, have almost certainly been cut. Pretty much every incentive has been removed due to recent media coverage of the GSA scandal. I don’t see them reappearing any time soon either.

  • #160894

    Robert Bacal

    It will be interesting. Having been through several rounds of govt. downsizing in the past, my general impression is that any kinds of “celebrations” for the public service during these times really tend to create more cynicism than good. I think they CAN be positive, but I also think it takes a master, expert hand to create the tone of such events so they don’t backfire.

  • #160892

    Mark Hammer

    Agree fully on all points.

  • #160890

    Elizabeth – how is that removal of incentives affecting morale?

  • #160888

    Marc Dronen

    We got popcorn! Recognition is so lacking in the public sector – real recognition. Don’t get me wrong, popcorn is a nice gesture – just falls short from what I would call real recognition. By the way, the popcorn was provided by one of our staff members since we are not able to attend the “ceremony” because we can’t leave our posts to attend.

  • #160886

    I meant to convey that I honestly do not know if there were incentives related to PSRW in previous years.

    I only became eligible for the removed program about two weeks prior to its disbandment. I know that items were given out based on points accumulated. Each employee was able to give points as recognition.

    I have heard some grumblings from folks who were saving up for something specific but generally have not noticed any drastic changes in morale. Then again, people may just not be speaking up, preferring to keep quite while things are in motion here.

  • #160884

    Sachin Shah

    Yawn. Want to honor me? Just get out of my way.

  • #160882

    Terrence Hill

    In my unofficial poll of others, about 80% didn’t even know that this is Public Service Recognition Week (more teachers know that this is also Teacher Appreciation Week). If you didn’t catch the PSRW Town Hall Meeting with four of our best leaders, I highly recommend viewing it ( I don’t think that you need to spend precious resources to appreciate others. A simple e-card thanking others for service, or even a simple awards ceremony to recognize others (similar to the SAMMIES) is often enough.

    It’s a shame that we need to be reminded to recognize others, but unfortunately most of us are too caught up in the day-to-day business of government to take the time to recognize the important work that we do every day. Even the Senate passed a resolution commemorating this day. Maybe they don’t hate us after all!

  • #160880

    Mark Hammer

    Given the hostility that public servants are facing these days from an electorate (and the people they elect) convinced that they pay too much taxes for too much “government”, and that public servants “have it too easy”, my sense is that there isn’t a lot of publicizing of the week, just to avoid backlash.

    Wait, you mean Radio Shack, Kroeger, and Target won’t give you 5% off this week if you show your public service ID card?

  • #160878

    Kirsten Burgard

    I used to provide info at the VA booth, but last year, the event was cancelled as Congress removed funding for it. Somehow, $15k to recognize the work we do seemed too high a cost. Yes, $15,000. That’s not even as high as a rounding error in the budget.

    The event on the Mall was a great way to talk to citizens visiting DC about what government does. There was usually a Military/Security area and then the civilian agencies. You could get info on jobs from OPM, benefit info from VA, turn the corner and SSA would help you learn about social security and HHS had nurses that would take your blood pressure… Schools and kids came through and lots and lots of tourists.

    The way things are going now, I’m waiting for the day that the Smithsonian starts charging admission. BTW, they’re government employees, too.

  • #160876

    Emily Landsman

    I’m all too familiar with the “yawn.”

    The National Association of Counties (NACo) runs National County Government Month, formerly National County Government Week, every April. Overall response, “yawn,” but individual responses are something approaching “yaaaay.” It’s really too bad, as it’s a great idea. Counties participate by highlighting programs, honoring public servants, etc. A few counties have great success, but not many actually participate.

  • #160874

    Cool – thanks for your response!

  • #160872

    Marian Henderson

    We’ve had food every day this week along with theme days for dressing up. I work for a State agency, and we do more than most other agencies in the state. Our execs bought pizza and cake yesterday & handed out certificates of appreciation. A nice gesture, but again, “yawn”. The annual appreciation letter from the Governor usually ends up under my floor mat so that I can refer to it (under my feet) as needed for the rest of the year, or until the carpets are cleaned again. I feel more appreciated at Christmas when the service awards and Employee of the year awards are handed out. Hmmm…maybe we should hand those out during employee appreciation week. Now there’s a thought!

  • #160870

    Niquette Kelcher

    I think we should be OK with taking a moment to celebrate our own commitment. That said, it would mean more to me if the public celebrated our good work with us.

  • #160868

    Mark Hammer

    Yep, there are few things more awkward than a parade down an empty street waving to nobody.

  • #160866


    Just posted this to our internal social networking site, Yammer.

    Now is an excellent time to reward those who have gone the extra mile. These are very harsh times for govvies: formal complaints are up across the board and the work environment is becoming increasingly hostile. We need these sorts of activities to provide a counterbalance to the fear.

    All of this is totally unnecessary IMHO. A great work environment is not linked to big budgets. There are many ways to reward employees and to provide incentives that do not require big budgets such as dog parks, doggie day care, child care, compressed schedules, telework, etc.

  • #160864

    Sachin Shah

    I don’t get it. Why should we expect some big hoopla for doing our jobs? It’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s different if you go above and beyond, like the Sammie awardees or if you are truly heroic in your work (tip o’ the hat to our first responders). But the idea that someone like me, a desk-bound analyst, deserves extra praise just for showing up every day, meh.

    Perhaps, in the spirit of “Customer Appreciation Week”, we should have “Taxpayer Appreciation Week”.

  • #160862

    Chris Cairns


  • #160860

    Chris Cairns

    @Sachin – excellent point. I think we should have Private Equity Professionals Appreciation Week next week.

  • #160858

    Tom Melancon

    I say Yay! The Seattle Federal Executive Board held a Celebration of Public Service at the Jackson Federal Building yesterday on May 9th. I would estimate that there were 700 to 800 people in the large auditorium. Peter Steinbrueck, former Seattle City Coucilman and lifetime advocate for sustainability in Seattle gave an inspiring salute to Public Service, using headlines he pulled from local news articles throughout the year which highlighted the Federal Governments involvement in promoting the public good. So I guess I have to disagree with the prevailing sentiment that we should hide out and try not make too much noise as public servants. My father retired as a FED and I went into this work because I wanted to make a difference. I still believe in what I do and I am inspired by the work of those around me. I think we should be getting louder right now, not quieter!

  • #160856

    Mark Hammer

    Well now THAT’s how you do it.

  • #160854

    Julie Chase

    Really? There was an appreciation week? I didn’t get the memo. DoD must have lost the paperwork on the way down to DoN. Yawn. With the retirement tsunami fast and furious going on, the silence has been well…silent, and we are living with “unfunded” billets to prove a point, I guess. Young people have left the area. College grads “laugh” at the mention of start pay as a GS05, they too are gone. BRAC looming in the distance, waiting, watching. If I can hang on just 10 more years or get a buy-out in 2018, I’ll be happy and appreciated.

  • #160852


    The Partnership ‏ @RPublicService

    Send a thank you note to your favorite fed today with the #PSRW e-card:

  • #160850

  • #160848

    Dianne Cooper

    Hey, thanks! I did take advantage of that link.

  • #160846

    Paul Alberti

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