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Recognition and respect matters 22 January 2013

…and they work for us….

This week, the “Times” has been running a series of articles concerning the relationship between the Civil Service and the Government of the day. This has served to take the imagery far beyond that of “Yes Minister” and has also lifted some of the veil surrounding the machinations of Whitehall. Recent headline grabbing events such as the West Coast rail franchise outcome, the Border Agency staffing issue, and the leaking of Education department papers have brought the vocabulary describing the relationship into wholly new territory. 

What has intrigued me…and frankly depressed me…has been the finger pointing and accusations thrown around between the two groups. The mutual scapegoating is everywhere and the sense of long built up animosity becomes apparent very quickly. What is clear beyond much doubt is that this ongoing conflict is causing real instability which is having a damaging effect on efficiency and productivity.

Members of the Civil Service complain of low morale, Ministers complain of frustration in getting things done…and all have to deal with heavy staff cuts. HM Treasury is now reported to have a staff turnover rate higher than MacDonalds.

The words of one civil servant sum it up for me….”you can put up with the rest if you feel valued”….

The cycle of targets- performance-recognition-motivation works equally in public sector activities as private. Without this being a strong cycle, things soon pull apart especially in times of stress….and this is what we are seeing now.

Recognition is evidence of value…and it does not need to be monetary to have real and immediate impact. A simple “Thank You” represents a great starting point.  Take away the recognition and the cycle breaks…….

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