Tief Head

After several months at my “new” job in the Public Service, I am at a loss for words (or rather I just had to think really long and hard about how I would phrase this, hence the really long delay between posts*).

The stereotypes that I referred to in my previous entry are real people who have the potential to bring down an entire department, institution, economy, country.

The average government employee* is often quite proud to publicly carry the mantle of the ministry / institution that he or she works for (“I am a so-and-so worker until ah dead!”) but the reality is that many operate like self-employed persons, not accountable to anyone but themselves.  

These workers come and go as they please (flexi-time is totally abused), partake of the offices resources freely (telephone, pc, printer, copier, paper, ink, space*…) and have mastered the art of making “doing nothing look like something.”  

(Note: if there is an event to plan involving food, drinks, dressing-up and more time off from work, you would be amazed at the levels of efficiency displayed by the same individuals).

As a relative newcomer to the scene, occupying a supervisory position (to persons older than you who may have worked in the organization for years, but who have had little to no upward movement), trying to implement change of any kind is a battle.

Responses to my suggestions so far have been:



  • But this is the culture of XYZ!
  • But we have always done it that way!
  • Good luck!



  • Who you? 
  • I am just going to pretend that I did not hear you! 
  • I am not talking to you! 

What is the newbie manager to do?  


  • Stay the course? They’ll come around eventually if you lead by example…
  • Enroll in some of the very same human resource / public sector management classes that they are in and try to apply the teachings? (Dang my overwhelmingly liberal arts education!)
  • Start reading some self-help / motivational books and try to apply that advice? 
  • Start praying (St. Jude, Patron Saint of Desperate Cases)?
  • Get the staff reshuffled? 
  • Get myself re-assigned?

I have my doubts about there being any change in the staff members’ attitudes / behaviour in the near future.  What can I expect from the individuals who claim that “At de end of de month, all I need to know is that I am getting my salary…” but who would be hard-pressed to say at the end of any given day how they have earned that salary?!  What can I expect from the individuals who act like their job is an inalienable right – they are entitled – the government owes them a job for whatever reason (maybe because of a vote…)?

All I can say is that working in the public service could be a real “tief head.”  The lack of co-operation can mess with your confidence.  I thought I knew something about certain things, but maybe I know nothing… (or is that what THEY want you to think?)

The Ministry of Public Administration has its work cut out for it.  What really motivates government workers? 

Between October 20th to October 31st, 2008, the Ministry of Public Administration conducted the Public Service Employee Survey 2008*, the slogan of which was “More than a job.”  According to the FAQs “The survey results will be used to feed into the National Public Service Transformation Agenda (NPSTA). The NPSTA is charged with building a developmental Public Sector that provides the highest level of services and promotes higher level energy and thinking, productivity and competitiveness from all levels across government. The results will also be used in Ministry specific improvement projects and programmes.” 

I wonder whether Public Administration will come to the realisation that there are plenty of unpatriotic beings, traitors, thieves operating from within the Public Service – persons who get paid by the State (i.e. taxpayers) to fulfill certain responsibilities but just do not do so (because they won’t or can’t).  Some can be transformed. Others cannot.  In a sector in which persons hardly ever get “leggo,” where Public Service dominance can drive policy, what is Public Administration going to do with the latter?


*I started to write this entry in October 2008.

*I have met many hard-working members of the Public Service, but there are others who put them to shame.

*I am tired of working in a place that looks like my Tantie’s sitting room (table cloth, doily, mystery bottles of this and that).

*Survey questions included whether you would speak (solicited or unsolicited) critically or highly of the Public Services as an employer, as well as of its services; whether you would recommend that a new graduate take up employment in the Public Service.

~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on December 3, 2008.

6 Responses to “Tief Head”

  1. As a former public servant, I highly recoomend that you get yourself a copy of the public service regualtions, and read it till you know it well. There are many ways to discipline recalcitrant public servants and you will find ample ways to get things done. If as you say, you are in a supervisory position, do things by the book, document EVERYTHING, as you do not want them running off to the likes of Anand Ramlogan crying discrimination. in other wards, when you f**k dem up, document it and make sure you f**k up everyone, not just some.

  2. I also passed through the Public Service. I will not return. Later I worked for a NGO. The strange thing is many of the volunteers were public servants. A lot of it is due to square pegs in round holes and no hope for promotion.

  3. Note to readers: I am not against government institutions or workers. It is an unbelievably surreal experience to feel passionate about your field and committed to upholding certain professional standards and then to realize that everyone else around you could care less. Whine. Whine. Whine. (I KNOW!)

    Thanks Jumbie. Will do. Saw one of the staff members refer to the regs when he/she was trying to figure out how to take vacation when all of his/her allocated days were used up…

    Other Advice I Might Consider

    Mosquito: Get over it. Get over yourself. Not everyone is going to like you or what you do. You are not there to make friends. You are there to do a job. Get it done. Make it work.

    Pappy: Why you fussing? Take it easy. In the end IT WILL ALL RETURN TO BUSH (VS is his guru).

  4. I love how you so eloquently write of your musings on Trini life. Congrats on the new job and just remember once you do what you have to is all important. Make sure you learn from the experience and just continue to grow.

  5. Falling about laughing, because really, if you don’t laugh you’re going to cry. Public Sector Transformation is one of those things, we have to come to terms with the fact that what’s required is CULTURAL change more than anything else. Like every work place, whether public or private sector, there are people who work and those who get by coasting. You just have to find your middle ground of things you are prepared to accept and those you’re not otherwise you will quickly go nuts, though there are those who say you have to be nuts to work in the public service. You can’t let other people’s baggage take away from your professional ethics so hang in there, though it might be difficult try to remember, it’s not all bad. You might actually change something!

  6. […] Head: What I am Worth This entry is a continuation of Tief Head. Read it when you get the chance and you will understand why my posts tapered of in early […]

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