Despite being an atheist (or maybe because of that), I think the looming Easter break provides an opportunity to reflect on the deeper aspects of life. Especially on those phenomenon and experiences that either divide or connect us.


With that in mind what I want to do in this post is put the current state of affairs within the Australian Public Service on a human scale. The bureaucratic corporate mindset and outdated notions of corporate management that pervade the public service tend to forget that we are dealing with people - whether as employees or clients. Gary Hamel's views on the centrality of human passion nicely captures that thought.


Beneath the reporting on public service cutbacks lay very human stories. These stories get lost in the numbers and are rarely communicated. Quite rightly, when private sector employees are laid off media reports highlight the plight of those unfortunate people. However, when it comes to reporting on cutbacks in the public service the human element is lost. If you want proof of that check out the Canberra Times article Public service to cut 1500 jobs within months.


What strikes me about the article is that it could equally be a clinical media release issued by some corporate communications area of any government agency. What also strikes me are the comments made by some readers. For example,

Sack the whole lot. Let them get real jobs. They are just luggage for those of us who actually produce something.


The disconnect is obvious and flies in the face of reality. Government, the community and public service are profoundly interconnected whether we like it or not. And that's how we should be behaving.


However, it's not just he staff cuts that are the issue here. The current climate is damaging to the workplace environment within agencies and shattering the morale of employees.


A good colleague of mine, we'll just call him Ron, recently resigned from his position at the Taxation Office. He has left the public service.


Ron sent a very balanced farewell email to his colleagues. One of the more telling reasons Ron gave for resigning was,


I chose to resign when I did because I found some aspects of what was happening in the workplace repugnant (sorry, but I have no other word for it)


Yes, Ron and I have spoken a lot over the years. Yes, we are philosophical kindred spirits. A basic belief in decency and freedom are what connects us.


It was very nice of Ron to comment my activities in his farewell and I hope I can live up to his comments. Most telling are Ron's comments in relation to management practices.


. . . over the years I have witnessed the use of bullying and intimidation in a number of large organisations, including, inevitably, the ATO (large organisations cannot avoid the phenomenon, unfortunately).


My own view is that bullying and intimidation work best where people are isolated in dark corners, or where they are made complicit because of fear for their own livelihood. Turning a bully into a rabbit in the headlights is the best way I can think of for reducing the use of bullying and intimidation as management tools in organisations.


It should be of concern to us all that what is dramatically unfolding is a disconnect between the institution of Government, the community and the public service. The bureaucratic corporate mindset and outdated notions of corporate management (on the part of governments and the public service), are only making matters worse.


This helps none of us. So maybe a good thing to do over Easter is reflect on what could be. How to connect Government, the community and public service and walk the talk when it comes to dealing with people.


So that's my Easter wish. Not bad for an atheist.


Now go read Ron's Farewell message.



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Comment by Darron Passlow on April 9, 2012 at 3:00pm
I still follow your writings and generally enjoy what you present.
I liked your Easter message and I do not think it matters what your persuasion is. Keep up the good work.
Ron sounds like a character.His comments on "bullying" are very topical and close to home for me (my family).
I do not agree that bullying needs to be inevitable. It should be addressed whereever it occurs. It is a blight on current business practices and should be eradicated. It was recently reported that there were some 200+ cases of bullying being investigated (just) in NSW Health. And they have a policy on Bullying which is very specific on its treatment and eradication. The problem is the message is not getting down to the staff who need it (the bullies). This shows a lack of commitment and interest. I am sure this is just the "pimple on the elephant's tail"
Your friend in socialising government
Darron Passlow

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