The System


The American Dream is in danger. With each passing day, I see the system repeatedly failing to reward honorable, competent people who are accountable for their actions and deserve better.

In the corporate world, there are winners and losers. The losers pack up their shit and go home. They find another job, or they get unemployment. But sooner than later management recognizes they are holding the company back.

The winners are rewarded with job security, stock options, profit sharing, promotions and relative prosperity. They get what they deserve.

In the system, government employees do not answer to such requirements. The process for holding workers accountable for what they do is a long and arduous one, due partly to restrictive union rules to prevent abuse or unfair labor practices but mostly because the system repetatively rewards people for being good at the system, not how well they can do their job.

It is a top-down disease. I don’t blame government employees, I blame ineffective management. Middle management in the government system is comprised largely of people who worked their way up the chain. They did not receive proper training or experience before assuming authoritative roles. This is a large generalization, but bear with me.

In the system, the first thing that contradicts our meritocracy is the inability of middle managers to enforce position description requirements in accordance with union regulations. They are given the power to hold people accountable, but for whatever reason they avoid conflict and do not properly document worker incompetence, insubordination, or lack of productivity.

Some of this is due to the superlative maze of red tape linked to almost any government transaction. But the root of it is a deep-seeded inability to face conflict, deal with a difficult situation, and do what is best for the team even if it is unpopular or not well received. Nobody likes to rock the boat. That is a huge problem.

On the worker level, this creates an environment where someone can work hard enough not to get fired, and still work their way up the chain. The system fails these workers because it leads them to believe that incompetance is the norm; that a lack of productivity and a lower standard are acceptable.

Fast forward a few years. New management comes in, they restructure. We mix workers schooled by an old system with workers that are energetic, productive, and more inline with the typical darwinist meritocracy so closely tied to the American Dream. We have a serious problem.

You end up with people who get something for nothing. And, in some cases, they actually get more for nothing, depending on seniority. To them, it is their entitlement, because they were not ever told it was wrong. Again, I blame shitty middle management spawned from the same flawed mindset. The workers, old and new alike, are all the victims.

New management, competent or not, is left powerless to change things for lack of precedents that would allow them to hold the old schoolers accountable for past flaws. New management is now forced to retro-actively set precedents to make up for the shortcomings of previous management. In a sense, they have to clean up someone else’s mess. In the meantime, the good workers deal with all of the side effects.

So the department suffers. The organization suffers. The old schoolers stay, they ride it out as long as they can because the system affords them that right. The new people, who can easily make it anywhere else, find better paying jobs that offer proper compensation. Because of an inability to keep and reward good workers, the system is diluted, which only perpetuates it’s self-destruction … because guess who’s going to be manager next.

The solution seems pretty simple; people should be held accountable for what they do. But it is no surprise to me that our country, with our President, our Secretary of Defense and our Senate Majority Leader leading the pack, lacks accountability.

We need to offer better education for managers in government agencies. Encourange worker accountability, and offer training for all levels of government in the area of conflict resolution and the ability to handle difficult speech. This empowers workers and managers alike to honor a higher standard that is not conducive to the old status quo.

Resolving conflicts today, no matter how difficult, will prevent catastrophes later on.

6 thoughts on “The System

  1. Arnaud

    Did I misunderstand or do you assume that in private companies the winners are necessarily the better suited for the job ?

  2. What I meant by that is that private companies are more likely to hold people accountable. That means, more often than not, hard workers are rewarded and unproductive ones aren’t. Not to say that the best workers are _always_ the ones who stick around; of course that depends on the company. But when it comes down to it, the urgency of a business and for-profit setting is motivation enough to make tough decisions — and those decisions are likely to result in keeping the people who deliver on a deadline and deliver well.

  3. Arnaud

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I don’t agree completely with that, I have seen many private companies with many people who don’t deliver well and not on deadline. The for-profit system doesn’t give the best results in every circumstance.

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