Group Writing Project What I learned from Government

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jethro's picture

The High Calling Blogs network (of which I am a part) has a group writing project titled What I learned from Government being hosted by Robert Hruzek.

I have written a  little bit about government here on this blog, but it isn’t really a topic I write about much.

However I do have a confession – I don’t vote.

Now I am not an American so had nothing to do with the recent elections there, though I did vote Obama on the world votes and If the world could vote.

My citizenship is a little confused. I am a New Zealander by birth. However I am unable to vote there as I do not live there. I cannot even vote remotely as I do not qualify by having lived there recently enough. I am also a citizen of the United Kingdom and have a British passport. However I cannot vote there either. I live in Australia, and have been resident here for 14 years but I cannot vote here because I am not a citizen.

So what can I possible say about government? Well believe it or not I am involved a little. I have contacted and visited my local MLA (Member of Local Assembly) who represents this area (and my family who are Australian citizens) on various issues. I have written to senators and politicians on numerous occasions regarding subjects that are particularly special to me. I have contacted them on abortion issues, foreign aid, internet filtering and censorship, radioactive nuclear facilities and education. I have had numerous letters back from members of parliament, and senators thanking me for my input and letting me know their plans. In one case I received a badly worded email from a senator (with spelling and grammar errors) stating she wasn’t going to listen to my opinions or represent her constituents opinions but only push her own ideas forward.


So the first lesson is that here in Australia, for the most part, government is accessible, want to listen and are very keen for good feedback on their decision making on behalf of their constituents.


I have also contracted to government departments for the best part of 12 years now. I have worked for local government health, education, treasury, investment, transport, several local councils and some other minor state owned government entities. Through most of this process I have seen a major disconnect between the political spin and public rhetoric by politicians and their desire to manage public opinion, and the actual work being performed by the bureaucrats and government workers. These people can be separated into three types. This is a generalisation of course, and some of my clients may well be reading this.

There are a number of people whose chief aim appears to be their personal achievement and betterment, often at the disregard to their fellow workers, clients and the public they purport to serve. I have seen backstabbing, infighting, rigged selection processes, outright lying and even experienced abuse for standing by a position that was legally correct when a department head wanted to present fraudulently calculated results to the minister and the public. The number of people I have met in this category is fortunately small.

There is another category of people working in government I have met who care nothing for their work, it is just a job. They take their full lunch break, work to the clock exactly, slack off in the office managing their personal lives and finances in work time, disengage from solution finding to problems, and generally have a very poor attitude about their work. Fortunately I have not had to deal with too many people like this.

The third category I have found is an amazing bunch of people. and it would seem that most of my clients fall into this category. certainly all my current ones do :). These people care about the work they are doing, are constantly looking for ways to improve productivity, save money, serve their customers better, work better in their teams and seek to improve their work processes and practices on the way. they are great people to work with and I admire the fact that they all have a above and beyond attitude. Lots of them work for leaders with the same attitude and it clearly rubs off. I think in many cases these people work for comparatively lower wages then their counterparts in private enterprise.


So the second lesson I have learnt is that governments are only as good as the people working in them. It doesn’t really matter what the politicians say and do. Its what the workers who have to bring those policies to the people who make or break a government. I have to say I am grateful for the friendships and relationships I have managed to develop over the last 12 years amongst many of the hard workers in the Queensland State Government. You people DO make a difference.


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Robert Hruzek's picture

Great observation, Tim! It's

Great observation, Tim!

It's so true, isn't it - that the organization is only as good as its workers. I'm glad you've had the chance to meet and work with so many who truly care about what they do. Those are the ones who get things done - and are appreciated the most.

Hey, a hat tip to ya for joining this month's groupwrite project! Hope to see you next month, too.


Anonymous's picture

Thanks Tim, Looks like you've

Thanks Tim, Looks like you've influenced a few leaders for good -- and maybe we all need to do more of that. The answers will often come in engaging people well, and we can all learn to do that better. Thanks for the interesting post and good reminder.