When I was a young man starting out in the world of civilian employment I was fortunate to have worked for several gentlemen who were possibly the least politically correct people on the planet.
What does that mean? It means that they didn’t care in the slightest about providing a comfortable, life affirming, caring or supportive milieu for their workers. They cared about whether an employee got his or her job done.
The funny thing was that all their employees knew that those were the ground rules. I’m not trying to imply that they liked the rules, or that they loved what it was they were supposed to do, just that they weren’t under the impression that their paycheck was somehow divorced from their accomplishments on the job.
They also knew that there were only two options if they found the requirement to actually do the job was not to their liking. They could quit and go find another job, or they could be fired.
Not a lot of wiggle room there.
On the other hand, most of us actually tried to get our jobs done. Many would think that the fear of job loss was a motivating factor, if not the single greatest motivating factor. Everyone who might think that way would be considered for promotion to Captain Obvious.
One of these politically incorrect bosses summed it up nicely when he said to me, “Jimmy, paranoia can be a healthy thing.”
And as for tolerating a situation where you were forced to do something that you really didn’t want to do, working for wages that you thought were inadequate and doing a job that you might have felt was demeaning, another of those bosses pointed out a serious life lesson when he said, “If you want to have steak for dinner, you have to learn to eat crap for hors d’oeuvres.”
But how do you get a person to do their job, the job for which they are getting better than average wages and significantly better than average benefits and from which you can retire early?
That appears to be the question faced by those who manage the bureaucrats in our government, at all levels. But for the nonce, let’s just look at the Federal bureaucracy, in particular the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration’s medical system.
Apparently the VA thinks that paying employees a bonus for doing a barely adequate, or even an abysmally inadequate, job will motivate them to work harder and do a superior job. I imagine that these same people also believe in unicorns, the tooth fairy and that Obama will actually get the people who were behind the Benghazi attacks and bring them to justice.
Once you give a person a bonus for lackluster performance, they almost invariably feel that this bonus money is now a guaranteed part of their annual income. If a bonus is effectively guaranteed for sub-standard performance, what incentive do they have for improving?
Come on, Captain Obvious, you know that the answer to that question is – NONE.
It’s time to reintroduce paranoia as a motivator. While the original civil service laws were designed to prevent wholesale replacement of the bureaucracy based on the political party affiliation of the bureaucrats, that particular danger is long past. When the civil service protections were passed into law, the government and its bureaucracy were a mere fraction of what they are today. By the time a new administration got around to replacing the three million plus civil servants that are on the payroll, their time in office would be over and the next administration would have to begin the merry-go-round process again. Think that would ever happen? I didn’t think so either.
But it is important to be able to make each individual bureaucrat aware that they do NOT have a lifetime tenure in their position. If they are inadequate to the task, if they are unwilling or unable to perform the functions for which they are paid, then they should be forced to confront the prospect of being unemployed and being forced to compete with competent people in the private economy for scarce jobs that will (a) not pay as well in the first place, (b) will not have cradle-to-grave benefits and (c) will not eliminate the paranoia about potential loss of one’s job.
If this seems a bit harsh to those who insist that only bigger and bigger government is the answer, perhaps they should learn to like something else besides steak for dinner.