New 2 Gov: How Does It Feel to Be Hated

Alright so first off let me outline the premise of this new blog series. I work for GovLoop but I am not and never have been a govie, rather my background is in journalism so I am have way decent at asking questions and that’s where you come in.

Alright let’s rock.

No one wants to be told that they suck but as a government employee you basically in a roundabout way sign up for it at ever level state, local and federal all a like. How does it feel?

Don’t believe me, well according to Dr. Forrest Morgeson, Research Scientist, American Customer Satisfaction Index:

“Citizens tend to have depressed expectations with Federal government; this is mainly an American phenomena, and these expectations are often not based on any prior experiences”

So basically doesn’t matter if someone has never dealt with the government, they already hate it (and you by consequence) without prior reason. How does it feel?

In fact according the research done by the ACSI there are only 3 things that people complain about more than government: airlines, supermarkets and cable tv. Two out of those three, just like government are everyday services. it would seems that a large reason gov’t is hated is because people think it’s an everyday service that should work 100% percent of the time and when it doesn’t they get pissed. Wow working perfectly 100 percent of the time is a crazy expectation. How does it feel?

First off I don’t think you suck and according to the numbers you actually don’t but sadly people don’t work in numbers. Looking at numbers the SSA scoring a higher satisfaction than companies like amazon, ebay and google. I bet that feel good!

Ok so my question if you haven’t guessed it is how do you keep your head up when everyone thinks you suck even though numbers would suggest otherwise? Does the government have any program in place to get employees ready for this? Adding on to that what makes you the angriest about the way government employees are thought of? Picture the comments section as the couch at the psych feel free to vent.

I would say I’m a rather pessimistic person but still not sure I could take the day to day beating that some govies take. I’m amazed and appreciative.

Next Week I’m asking about Acquisition so get ready.

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15 Comments

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Profile Photo Tricia

You’ve got to have thick skin! If you don’t you’ve got to grow it! No matter what your gov’t role is, the tendency is for the public to believe you yourself are resposible for and/or in agreement with any actions your government takes. We all don’t have the same authority as the Governor, but people think so. Also, being in the field of Human Resources, you learn to deal with being the bad guy – you know, don’t shoot the messenger, but people (and employees) don’t always get it.

Example – we are an environmental agency charged with protecting public health and the enviroment. Recently, protestors entered our lobby. When they wrote about their visit, they talked about their demands that we use our “role as a tentacle of the capitalist system to intervene”. Ahhh, hello! Our agency reports to the Governor and legislature – and also has to answer to the EPA. We don’t necessarily get to do what we’d like. Everyone has to answer to someone as well as take direction from someone. In government? We’re not miracle workers, but I can tell you we sure do try!

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Profile Photo Bill Brantley

Before I entered government, I worked my way through college as a loan collector. So being a govie was a step up in appreciation. :-)

I got into government because I believe in public service and I feel better about myself when I am working in a good cause. Whether people appreciate my work is really situational. Like Tricia, I also worked at an environmental agency. Some people were grateful for my work and others despised what I did to protect the environment. And often, people who liked me this week didn’t like my next week. As long as I acted ethically and was fulfilling the mission of the agency (which was set by the representatives of the people) I was doing my job for the public good.

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Profile Photo Doris Tirone

Anyone who’s ever done one or both of these things will agree … there are two things every American should or must do early in their adult lives … they should spend time anywhere outside the US for at least a month AND work for the Feds at least a year! Both experiences give one a whole new perspective and appreciation for this country! .

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Profile Photo Jeffrey Levy

Simple: I believe in our mission at EPA. In my 17 years here, I’ve literally helped save the world by working to protect the ozone layer, helped people understand acid rain, and run our response websites for 9/11 and Katrina. And now I lead our entire Web effort. No other job in the world would let me serve the public and protect the environment to this degree.

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Profile Photo Al Fullbright

I dont hate the government, but I hate how some people twist it to obtain results that should not be. Unlike some wh think we need less government, I think we need to greatly expand government roles in Science, technology, education, and training.

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Profile Photo Ed Albetski

Being in IT I’m low on the public’s radar. Certainly not like being president with half the country reviling you and even going so far as to insult your family. I think its just thoughtless incivility towards folks you do not know, like the boos and catcalls hurled at an opposing sports team. It’s best to ignore it and just do your job. Eh, if some stranger’s callous insult is the worst thing that happens to me all day, I got off light.

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Profile Photo Alycia Piazza

I am a contractor so I’m not sure if that gives me the right to weigh in..but like @jeffrey levy I believe in the mission. The project I work on at GSA help train government agencies in serving citizens better and making websites more user friendly. Who wouldn’t agree that that is a great thing to be a part of??

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Profile Photo Christopher Whitaker

As a peer of mine once said, “Don’t complain, You get paid to deal with the crap.”

I work on the front line at the unemployment office where there are generally three kinds of people.

1) The people who are genuinely thankful about the service you’re providing. (and the vast majority of people are in this category.)

2) The people who will never thank you because they expect you to preform the service. They come into the office with a chip on their shoulders because they had to make a trip to the office.

and 3) The people who want something that you’re not going to give them – and they will give you hell for it because that’s just who they are. (Because like everywhere else, the law is the law is the law and no amount of screaming is going to change it) Luckily, there are very few of these. I may get one or two a month….not bad considering we see 300+ people a day!

And that’s what I always tell myself. I deal with the one bad apple, so that everyone else on the team can service the other 300 people that come through our doors every day. I’ve gotten threats, been stalked, and had nasty messages left on my phone, email, and on my office door. Despite that, I’m still preforming a public service for hundreds of people during a bad time in their lives and that makes it worth it.

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Profile Photo Tracy Kerchkof

What a timely post!! I attended a dinner this weekend with a group of people who either used to work for the government or are government contractors. One of the people who used to work for government started talking about why they left their gov job, and it was all downhill from there. I just basically ignore it unless I’m directly spoken to.

It’s especially hard when I agree with some of their points. Yeah, I believe in the mission of my agency but its true, changes take a long time, things like efficiency and competency aren’t always rewarded, employee skills don’t always match the job they have. What keeps me going is the belief that people deserve more than that from their government, and nothing is going to change if I just go find a job in the private sector. I push and push and push, even when its frustrating and/or unpopular. And when I feel like I can’t do it anymore, well, like Gwynne, thats why I have a dog :-)

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Profile Photo Jenyfer Johnson

I’ve worked federal civil service for 26+ years and have heard alot of good and bad about government workers.

In my first 10 years I worked for the Navy overhauling 688 class nuclear submarines (7 yrs) and Hazardous Waste Management (3 yrs). I had some family members confront me on “how can you work on nuclear weapons?” and my answer to them was “I design the installation of electronic and electrical cabling and have nothing to do with nuclear weapons.” But to some of my family I was a “government tool of destruction” and “how could I live with myself?”, to others I had a decent job and made a decent living for myself and my son.

For the last 16+ years I’ve worked for the Air Force as the Hazardous Material and Waste Manager of an Air Force Base and I guess I have redeemed myself in my family’s eyes. I make more money than my step-sister who has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from some snobby private college (she is shocked); my family is proud that I’m doing great things for the environment; I can afford to pay for my son to go to college and come out oweing nothing and I work with people that I like (generally speaking).

When I first took a job working for the federal government it was because I wanted a job in a particular location, but I have come to realize over the years that I enjoy public service; it feels good to be doing something to serve my country. When we heard over the radio that Mare Island Naval Shipyard would be closing on the second BRAC round, my whole office was stunned…our Shipyard Commander called the entire shipyard together in the building ways and gave a speech (most of which escapes me now) but I remember him telling us “not to be ashamed that we were losing our jobs but to be proud…it was due to the work we had done that we were losing our jobs and we should hold our heads up high and never be ashamed because we had helped win the Cold War and made ourselves obsolete!” I never felt so proud to be a civil servant as on that day with tears streaming down my face…that’s what it means to serve my country as a civil servant.

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Profile Photo Bryan Martin Firvida

You take a deep breathe and look at the big picture and realize at the end of the day, your role in government – state, local, or federal – you really do get to help make things happen, and more often than not, make things better. There’s not too many jobs that let you say that.

I admit, in my years of federal and state/local government work, it took me about a year to separate myself from the work I personally did and the criticism levied upon “the government” which I was now part of. As I began to realize that people were more upset with “government” (kind of a great and convenient boogey man to blame for anything bad or wrong) than they were with the actual good and great work we accomplished – things got easier.

But don’t overlook, there is some validity in nearly every complaint, and you should always be on the lookout for ways to make improvements from the criticism and complaints.

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Profile Photo Sonya

Every large organization has bureaucratic & morale problems, so government isn’t unique there. Otherwise we wouldn’t have Dilbert or Office Space. I’m in government on purpose. I wanted a job that mattered besides to the one dude at the top’s bottom line. I started wanting that when MN Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane crashed. I want to make government better. I have a completely and utterly insane goal to make the area of local government I’m in valued to taxpayers. Even the ones who don’t have to need direct services. I keep showing up every day for that reason. Even when I run into the entrenched status quo who personify every single government employee stereotype there is. Even when I run into the absolutely committed to change aversion and progress-phobic. Especially when I run into the ones who get a visible itchy rash at the idea of trying something new just to see what happens.

Even when friends & colleagues outside government ask me why I’m wasting my time on this “piddly gig” (their words, not mine). I could earn a *lot* more money in private, but I’d also make sacrifices for it. I’d not have work-life balance. I’d not have the comfort of knowing we’ll never get bought out, merged, acquired, or closed. I’d be back slogging for The Man, not for The People, and that just doesn’t seem as good in my soul.

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Profile Photo Peter Sperry

I hate to sound pollyanish but in 30 some years, I’ve found the haters to be the minority and relatively easy to endure given the other rewards of public service. Having been a staffer for 4 Congressmen and a Senator, I’ve delt with my fair share of screamers, cursers, spitters and would be fighters. But they are the distinct minority. Most people you work with are good, decent citizens who simply want to be heard and every once in awhile get some help dealing with a system they do not always understand. Yes, I do still remember some of the angry ones who got in my face to explain that all politicians and their staff were miserable excuses for human beings who had no right to exist. I prefer to remember the ones who took the time to let us know what we had done right and I absolutely loved the ones who brought cookies to the office (more effective than lobbyist lunches BTW) to thank us for helping them breack through redtape with a phone call or two.

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