Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Government Workers

One more rant, just a sidebar.  Yes, we all know that government workers don’t do much work.  We waste everything, really, and just go to meetings and eat donuts.  Fair enough.  It’s all true.

But most of you work at jobs where people want your services rather than avoid them. You go to a restaurant because you want food, or shop online because you are seeking something.  You prepare a report that someone wants.  You repair something or install something that was requested. You entertain.  You heal or alleviate.  You steer someone to the person who can help them, you defend them in court, you evaluate how they might best manage their money.  Sales can be a bit different, because sometimes you are handling something that people really don’t think they need, or know they would like, so you have that hurdle to get over.  But usually they want something, and sales difficulty is that they get it from you instead of the next guy.  Or the objection is often not that they don’t want it, but they can’t afford it.

Everyone likes the idea of an orderly, well-run, fair-play society, but policemen and courts spend a lot of time delivering a service to people who are uh, actively resisting and not very grateful. Teachers certainly get some kids glad to be there, but they also put a lot of energy into getting them to do things they would rather not.  When you head to a government agency to get something and stand in line, it is often not for something that you wanted, but something you have to have because this agency says so – a registration or a permission or a license. 

Who thanks a prison guard?

This is in the background of size-of-government discussions, I suspect.  Government workers bring you services you don’t want.  Oh, you want them in theory, because you know what it would be like if all those other people didn’t have zoning laws or traffic laws.  But at the point of delivery, really, you’d rather not be seeing me, thank you very much, let me go now and I’m not taking your fucking meds. (Damn cops should be out catching real criminals instead of…what the hell do they do down at that school all day, anyway?)

Even when it’s a necessary intrusion, a good intrusion, it’s still us horning in and stopping everyone from running next to the pool.  We get used to ignoring you when you complain, because the last five people also complained about the same thing.


Retriever said...

Amen! Tho I suspect some of the same logic is behind "first we shoot all the lawyers". Because happy, well behaved people who aren't hurt or in trouble rarely have to go to law.

Sometimes I think simple envy of decent health care and at least the promise of future pensions is behind much snarling about "parasitical" governmental workers. What everyone should have, seems unfairly bestowed on that grouchy clerk or administrator.

Mostly it's about denial: government workers deny wishes, and burst bubbles of denial. And bring reality brutally home to people. As TS Eliot said "human nature can not bear very much reality" (sic?)

David Foster said...

Good post. I do think that the quality of customer interaction with customer-facing employees is primarily a matter of quality of management. In general, businesses will do this better, both for the reason you state and also because businesses sooner or later face the danger of losing money and even going out of business...but still, some businesses are terrible at this and some government agencies are fairly decent.d

My state DMV (Maryland) is pretty decent.

David Foster said...

Another point: government work inherently must be highly proceduralized to avoid corruption and/or tyrannical behavior. Peter Drucker said that "any government that is not a government of paper forms degenerates rapidly into a mutual looting society." (The principle doesn't change if the forms a electronic rather than paper.)

bs king said...

You forgot the inherent feeling that WE'RE PAYING YOUR SALARY. So when government workers do something you don't like, you can act like a betrayed boss.

My Dad seems to get that a lot...don't suspend my license because I PAY YOUR SALARY.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

bethany, yes, I get that at the hospital, too, usually from people who are on SSD, APTD, FS, QMB, Medicaid and all the other programs.

State property tax is a biggie, also Rooms and Meals and various fees, which I don't think my particular customers figure prominently in. However, alcohol, tobacco, and lottery revenue are often right up their alley, so they may be partially right.

james said...

Funny about us lazy gov't workers. Since there wasn't room on campus the IceCube offices are in a downtown office building. When I show up in the morning the lawyers and apartment management company people aren't in their next-door offices yet, and when I leave they've mostly gone home already.

Sam L. said...

Some are; some aren't. I will say I've never had a problem with my local DMV office.