June 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm #134029
All governments are eager to reduce deficits, cut costs, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Few public servants and pubic services would tolerate senior officials marching in and simply slashing. They would expect some degree of consultation that might identify viable areas for reduction of operating costs.
But here is the challenge: If asked, would you recommend a cut that ultimately affected your own job?
That recommendation can have multiple outcomes, including:
1) You get transferred shortly after to another job elsewhere in the system.
2) You take an early retirement and golden handshake.
3) You accept some sort of severance package, but it’s far too early in your life to retire.
4) There is no financial impact on you, but a program or initiative you’ve worked on for a while gets trashed.
5) There is no financial impact on you but there is on some of your co-workers.
There are other possible outcomes that I’m sure others will mention, but the fundamental question remains the same: If consulted would any of us recommend a cut that affected our own current employment, and under what conditions would we do so? or would our instinct be one of recommending other things to be cut, and seeing our own unit/programs as “essential”?
I am certainly not intending to imply greed or egocentrism on anyone’s part. rather, reduction of cognitive dissonance would normally dictate that it would be absolutely painful for any of us who are committed to the goals of our organizations, and the programs and services we support and provide, to behave as if they suddenly didn’t matter. So how do we engage in a consultative process that ends up taking us somewhere productive and more frugal?
June 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #134045
In all honesty if it affects my bottom line (pay) then I’m probably not throwing it out there. But if it affects where I work from, what I do at work, ect. then I’d be willing to explore suggestions.
June 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm #134043
Yes, I think I would. I already have, though the consequences have been minimal so far. It would be harder to do it when it would affect a number of other people and not just myself. I guess I’m confident we won’t run out of things for me to do.
June 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm #134041
This is a fantastic question. I’d like to think I would, and here’s why: I don’t want to be working on a useless or wasteful or unnecessary project. I want to feel like what I’m doing is meaningful. On the other hand, I’d also like to think that if I am working on a project, it’s one I believe in and wouldn’t view in those terms (and therefore wouldn’t want to see cut). But if I did think it should go, then I wouldn’t worry as much about myself. I’m scrappy, I’d bounce back 😉
June 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm #134039
I’d like to think I would too, but here’s the thing: how old are you? (That’s rhetorical, I’m not expecting or insisting on an answer)
As a result of downsizing in the 90’s, many public services tend to be top-heavy in terms of age demographics, with a lot of employees in the 45+ age-band. If I was 28 or 32, the prospect of “starting over” wouldn’t be as daunting and I’d probably be more willing to say “Sure, we don’t really need program X that badly. I’ll find something else.” I’m 59 in a few weeks, and while I have no plans to retire, it would be rather difficult to find another comparable position where I felt as competent and “value-added” as I do now. Cutting what I do would require an entire self-reinvention. That may be fine for a Tom Hanks character in a movie, but not necessarily in real-life. Hard to imagine I’m the only one in the 45+ bracket who feels that way.
So, I think the kind of response one might expect to the question I posed would very much depend on career stage, as well as a host of other things.
June 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm #134037
The only way I can see really suggesting a cut that affects me directly is if I have a suggestion of how to better use my skills and talents. If I thought the right answer was just slash my project and any need for me, then I’d probably try and change the project so it did add value. If there were other options/projects to work on, then if I thought it was a waste of time/energy, I’d definitely put it on the chopping block.
June 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm #134035
I am not so sure I would, mostly because I think it’s hard for anyone to objectively evaluate the importance of their position or project in the bigger context of the organization. It’s not just that people want to keep their jobs. Sometimes it’s obvious where the cuts need to be made, but sometimes it’s a matter of deciding between two functions that are both valid. Think about social services, especially at the state or local level, where money is incredibly tight. Do we cut funding for the public health clinic or the homeless shelter? I could argue that both of these are essential. This is a tough process. I guess there has to be some balance between street-level employees making recommendations as well as a senior-level person who may ultimately have to make some difficult choices and prioritize.
June 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm #134033
Yes. That is our job as stewards of somebody else’s money.
June 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm #134031
Agreed. For sure. I’m right out of school and that gives me tons of flexibility as compared to a more senior person.
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