Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shuffle shuffle... 52 pick-up!

There have been a lot of talks lately about burnout in the Public Service. Specifically an article in the Ottawa Citizen caught my eye this week, as I am practically living this situation at work.

The article entitled 'Too much' reshuffling in PS ranks, expert says' states that 40% of public servants started and ended the last fiscal year in a different job.

Hello? This is me, and many of my friends/colleagues in government communications. We've jumped aboard the party bus when it comes to communication positions in the public service. I have to wonder if my recent move to a different department is the start of some kind of personal bender career wise.

Is this the start of a pub crawl... ? Lord, I hope not, those never ended very well for me in University!

Am I at the department that I will stay with forever? Probably not, and that's not slating the department, I just think, as the Citizen's article states:

"For years, public servants were told to get as much experience in as many departments as possible, especially at the central agencies. As a result, central agencies like Treasury Board are becoming a revolving door of people who are itching to get in to get it on their record and then itching to get out. There's no corporate memory, so it's like a ping-pong policy game. We'll try this and go back and try that because no one remembers why it didn't work before," said Linda Duxbury, a management expert at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business.

I put in a decent 5 years with one organization, and I was convinced I needed to see how the rest of the world lives when it comes to other government departments. I am now working at my second department, and in 5 short months in I have already decided this will not be my final resting place. I will do it for a few years, to gain the experience in a different communication's environment, but I can already see the pros and cons to this department compared to my previous one.

What I find so interesting in the Ottawa Citizen article is that Linda Duxbury states:

"This is a culture that values movement over stability and breadth over depth. It creates stress, burns people out, wipes out corporate memory and there's no accountability. People move with all kinds of kudos and adulation long before the results of their decisions, which could turn out to be dysfunctional, materialize two or three years later."

Since my arrival at my current department, I have been to four good-bye parties, while meeting at least a dozen new employees. Apparently I was only one of a several new hires this year. New people coming on board at the same time can mean good things for a department, but when good corporate knowledge leaves practically the same day you arrive - this can make the job extra difficult.

In communication's its like a game of 52-pick up between departments. Advisors are like cards in a deck being continuously shuffled, every once and a while someone drops the entire deck, and yells '52-Pick Up' while managers across the public service scramble to pick up as many cards/advisors as possible - hoping their won't be another round of the same game for a very long time.

This happens every few years... and I can imagine from a management standpoint, it's got to be beyond frustrating to spend the majority of your time trying to staff your team.

I still believe I am considered to be 'young' in the public service, and as a young public servant, I want to have a good mentor in the business; however, the majority of good mentors in the business really don't have the time for mentoring duties given the other pressures that are put on them in their management role.

I would take depth of experience, over rapid movement up the food chain any day. I would stay at the same salary for years, if it meant the promise of decent guidance from someone who will stick around long enough to transfer the knowledge of the department and make me a better civil servant because of that committment.

Yes.. I know, this one is a bit of a rant. But its definitely an issue as of late in my workplace. I realize the majority of my readers may not be in the public service, but in general, in your workplace, what is the current situation like: is turnover an issue, how does your organization deal with the shuffling of staff and the threat of people burning out?

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