fotoandrius/Shutterstock.com

Hear What Federal Employees Have to Say to ‘I Wish the Public Knew . . .’

Reflections for Public Service Recognition Week.

Third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz wanted to better understand her students many of whom came from impoverished homes. So she asked.  She requested her students complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew . . .” The colorful, hand-written responses ranged from heartwarming to heartwrenching. The comments were poignant and powerful; reflecting love -- “I wish my teacher knew that I feel safe around you” as well as loneliness --“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have a friend to play with me.”

Enlightened by this reality check, Schwartz posted the responses on Twitter (hashtag: #IWishMyTeacherKnew) to educate other teachers of the challenges confronting today’s students.

Her initiative prompted the Cardinal Community Schools Superintendent, Joel Pedersen, to enlist other teachers to join the project. “My hope for this,” he said, “is that as educators, we can step back and realize that we may not always know the whole story of what our children are facing.”

Hearing of Schwartz’s initiative, I wondered whether, as an educator, I knew the whole story of my students: senior-level government employees attending the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although they work inside the glass house of public service, I wanted to learn how their perception of reality differed from the public and media who look in from the outside. I wanted to better understand the challenges they are facing. So I asked.

I invited recent graduates of the Leadership for a Democratic Society Program to complete the sentence “I wish the public knew . . .” The outpouring of responses was immediate, insightful and inspiring. With few exceptions, the comments fell into five categories: people, purposefulness, perseverance, perception and pay. A sampling of these compelling comments follows.

People

Epitomizing Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words, federal employees see themselves as part of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  They serve the people and are people.

 . . . public servants are people, not organizations.

 . . . I am the "public" too, and I have the same or higher expectations of the public servants as they do; especially when it impacts the security of our country.

 . . . being a public servant doesn't make one immune to needs or desires of other humans.

 . . . at the end of the day, it is all about relationships. Public servants know this. If not for their commitment to others, they would not serve.

Purposefulness

Federal employees take extreme pride in their vocation and the meaningfulness it provides in return. They revel in tackling tough work assignments, especially when championing a worthy cause.

 . . . public servants view their work as a calling, not a job.

 . . . we are like the engine of a car: we make things run so they can spend their time driving to new places.

 . . . I have a government job because I want this great country to flourish and be a better place for my children.

 . . . public servants are interested, caring, and engaged in the needs of others. Because of this, they don't view putting the needs of others before themselves or their family as a sacrifice. It simply is the way it is. It will not change because it is not an event, it is a lifestyle.

Perseverance

Despite multiple rigors and limited recognition, federal employees persist in their pursuit of a “greater good.”

 . . . we are people of integrity. We work long and hard hours.

 . . . federal employees work hard, and in many of their tasks and roles will never interface with the public they serve. They are dedicated even though those they work for will never be able to say thanks.

 . . . how hard federal servants work to assure their safety, their security, and the good stewardship of taxpayer’s dollars. 

Perception

Public servants want to be more accurately portrayed by the media, and thus better understood by the public. Not seeking to soften or spin the news, they appeal for a more balanced portrait that illustrates the government’s successes, not solely its shortfalls.

 . . . how truly committed to public service the majority of federal employees really are. That what they read on the news is the exception, not the norm.

 . . . for every failed project covered by the media, there are tens of thousands of successful ones that don’t get coverage.

 . . . how hard it is to implement a program while balancing all the public interests.

Pay

Public servants perceive themselves as members of a highly productive workforce, fueled by passion and purposefulness rather than pay or profit.

 . . . I work with a lot of talented, high-achieving people who could work anywhere and choose to be here.

 . . . when [the public] hired me, it got a fabulous lawyer at a bargain hourly rate . . . I am a highly skilled professional who would rather do great things for my country than make great money in the private sector. I respect deeply my client, the American Taxpayer, and only ask in return for a modicum of respect for the job I do.

 . . . I left a job with better pay and benefits to do this.

These candid comments provide an unfiltered glimpse into the reality federal employees face. Taken together, they complete the sentence “I wish the public knew . . .” with the stirring sentiment that the federal workforce is manned by hardworking, dedicated people whose pride and perseverance overcome misperception and disproportionate pay to serve and safeguard the nation.

One respondent warned “. . . if the quality of the public servant workforce declines, the nation will decline.” But with these heartfelt responses, such a decline will not come soon.

Celebrating Public Service

In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, the Office of Personnel Management’s Center for Leadership Development is offering federal employees complimentary one-hour webinars on contemporary leadership topics:

May 7 at 1 p.m. -- Leadership Through the Lens of Culture

May 8 at 2 p.m. -- How to Succeed in a Virtual Environment

Michael F. Belcher is a faculty member at the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Executive Institute. He teaches leadership and change management to federal executives in the Leadership for a Democratic Society Program. He can be contacted at Michael.belcher@opm.gov.

(Image via fotoandrius/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.