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You Are Essential – But Are You Recognized For Your Work?

“Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation.” – Margaret Chase Smith

The past year has been tough for government works, the pay freeze, sequestration and then the dreaded government shutdown, to name just a few. But what made the year even more difficult was the lack of support and thanks given to public workers. The public’s faith in government dropped. Morale sagged. And feds felt like the world didn’t value the work they did on a daily basis. That is why Public Service Recognition Week is so important. Every year the Partnership for Public Service holds a week long series of events aimed at giving back and saying thanks to public employees.

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that saying thank you can make all the difference in the world to discouraged feds.

“There’s actually quite a long history and tradition associated with Public Service Recognition Week. It’s a Congressionally chartered event, typically the first week of May, this year it’s May 4-10th. The intent is to set aside time to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county, local government employees. It’s a time where elected officials actually come together with agency leaders, and even folks in their communities to host tribute events and highlight stories of excellence in government. The theme for this year is “Proud to Serve.” It feels like we’re finally turning a corner around some of the negativity associated with government and public service. And it feels like, much like springtime is around the corner, public servants are ready to re-emerge and talk about the good work that they’re doing and just how proud they are to serve the country,” said Fox.

Timeline of Events:

  • Monday, May 4, at 9 am, there’s a Public Service 5k, where folks can register and all the proceeds for the event actually go to the Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund, which is really cool.
  • Tuesday, May 5, there’s a Nationals game, where public servants, federal employees, state and local employees, can actually get a discount to tickets to see the Nationals take on the L.A. Dodgers.
  • Thursday, May 6, there’s another public event, the Public Service Town Hall, where ABC News Political Commentator Cokie Roberts hosts a panel of federal leaders who talk about the value of government service and the dedicated public servants who really deliver value, often times with very little attention, uh, to all of us from across this country.

This recognition shouldn’t just happen once a year though, right?

“Absolutely! There is a lot that is going on, sorta government-wide, but this is really an opportunity for government leaders to step up and recognize government employees themselves. So we have, actually, on our website, some “Celebration Guides,” some How-to guides to encourage folks, with little or no cost, to recognize their employees, and so, a lot of what we advocate, y’know, is a message to employees, perhaps visits to team meetings. Anything you can do as a leader to make a personal connection to your folks. And we’ve even seen, beyond that, agencies align many of their awards programs to that first week of May, so that as they annually take time out of their busy work schedules to recognize the truly exceptional public servants in their midst, they align that with Public Servant Recognition Week. I think there’s any number of things you could do, to the extent that you can make them personal and authentic, the more likely they are to resonate and have meaning to the folks in the agency,” said Fox.

Does this kind of recognition help government operate better?

“Absolutely. I think we’ve seen this consistently in our “Best Places to Work” analysis, the best places to work in the federal government, where we find that public servants are constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better, but feel like they get very little recognition for a job well done, and what we found is that agencies where there’s a better balance, where folks feel as though they’re getting that recognition, not only does employee engagement and satisfaction increase, but agency performance increases as well,” said Fox.

Has the tide turned for public servants?

“I wish I had a crystal ball to really tell you a definitive answer. I think that what public servants and leaders can control is just how they talk about and the pride that they demonstrate in the work that they do. We can’t control congressional agendas, oversight hearings, or even the scandals that pop up from time to time,” said Fox.

Former VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould’s message is important, ‘Tell people the good work that they do!’ And you don’t have to do it in a boisterous just, the importance of public service and how it matters, and how it fits in. I think that’s so powerful in terms of showing what’s going on out there.

“Whether it’s a veteran who’s receiving benefits from VA, whether it’s the rest of us who are enjoying clean air and clean water as a result of the EPA, or plentiful food as a result of the work the USDA is doing. You could look at every single different agency, large or small, and find some direct connection between the work that these folks are doing, and, frankly, the outcomes that we take for granted, that we rely upon. And Public Service Recognition Week is a time to – as you suggest, as former Deputy Secretary Scott Gould suggests – to connect the dots, so that we really see the results of the hard work that the public servants are doing,” said Fox.

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