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Monday, August 29, 2011

Understand the Empire

As I walk into the monthly staff meeting among thirty or so other gathering professionals, I face a difficult decision for a Monday; what kind of donut.   Finishing the once a month morning snack, the din of background conversation is replaced with silence as our director starts his address to the troops.  This usually amounts to a few notifications like start of health care open season is upon us, or a reminder to put in for your summer leave early so supervisors can plan how to manage in your absense; pretty much a few sentences about nothing followed by the end to the meeting. 

This time our leader states with satisfaction that we are now allowed to fill the jobs that have been vacant so long.   The long job freeze has ended and all vacant positions are being filled.  The fact that there were no adverse affects from these positions being vacant, and that the incoming workload has slowed, are immaterial. State spending is down, state projects are down, and thusly our workload has waned so much so that our milking projects that should take less time than a tour with Gilligan and the Skipper are now nearly week long undertakings.   But maybe I don't see the big picture so management may be operating on a more enlightened plane than I can imagine.   Maybe we need the extra time to handle how efficient communication has become.  Maybe I'm not accounting for the time demands of social media - who knows.
Now there are a few truths that are consistent among government offices that are not intuitively obvious.  These methods only make sense when you understand that the most important goal of your operation is not in the mission statement that your group worked on so painstakingly.  These truths are, in part:

1.   In government, it's all about the empire.   It never -ever - matters how many people you actually need.  If you build it, you will prosper.
2.  When hiring, we go for the deepest resume - somebody that already knows everything.  Therefore, we rarely hire young people.  Young people have energy, may work efficiently, may be capable of learning, and may make others look bad.  So we often favor already retired people that are looking to work enough years so they can vest in the retirement program and add another income stream.  This has the added bonus of spending state money without even helping the unemployment rate.
 3.   In government, money disappears at the end of the fiscal year.  It really does.  All agencies spend money just for the sake of spending it because it will simply up and vanish.  Worse than just going away is the fear that if someone discovers you didn't need your budgeted amount you may get less next year.