How rubbish are we?

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.  Ronald Reagan

That quote by the former Most-Powerful-Man-In-The-World™ is one that has been playing on my mind ever since the Panorama report earlier in the week, which we commented on here.

What I want to ask now is whether or not the ex-actor might or might not be on to something?  Are the brightest amongst us all ambitious executives climbing the greasy private sector pole, or are there plenty of razor sharp minds plying their trade for the good of their fellow man?

Now before I go any further I want to be clear that I am basing all of this on my own limited experience of both the private and public worlds, rather than on robust statistical data, so feel free to disagree with me in the comments section below.

On the agree side, I have to ask anyone who has ever worked in public sector (who may even now be reading this at their desks in the office): take a look around at your colleagues.  Are these people actually amongst the brightest people you know?  I’m not talking about the exceptions, and those who know me also know there are some really, really hot individuals around my workplace as I’m sure there are in other places; but take a look at the average.  If you were setting up your own consultancy, would you hire a random sample of those around you?

My guess is no, as there are a lot of quite frankly shocking workers in the public sector.  Some of this is historical, with people being in post for lengthy periods of time and never changing, despite the world outside the window changing more than a female host at the Oscars.  Another reason is cultural, in that traditionally local authorities have been abysmal at performance management and put up with work levels and shifting deadlines as if all staff were actually full time students, not reasonably well paid professionals.

The fact that sharp, clever, proactive staff are seen as exceptional indicates that the average falls way below that, and that they are surrounded by a fair level of dross.


If you are currently working in the private sector, I ask you the same thing: how many of your colleagues would you pay to employ in your own company?  I’m guessing not many, for many of the same reasons as listed above.  There may be some top, top staff in your workplace, you may even be one of them, but at the average company the makeweights are in the majority.

I guess my point is that we shouldn’t be quite so harsh on our public sector workers, who do their best to do their jobs well even if their best might not be up to the highest of standards.  In this day and age the concept of job-for-life is gone, meaning public sector jobs are just that – jobs, rather than careers.  Like any job it might turn into a long term deal, but fewer and fewer people seem to feel tied down to working in one place doing one job for the rest of their lives, and feel more comfortable moving between the public, private and even third sectors to earn a living.

So the next time you hear someone moan about the standards of public sector workers, just remember that they are doing their best, and then cross your fingers that you come across some of those exceptional people who are in the public sector phase of their careers.

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2 Comments on “How rubbish are we?”

  1. localgovaswell Says:

    Loving the Reagan quotes… 😉

    And loved the direction of your argument… Very well put

    The big question for me is always whether the middle employee is as good and productive in the public as the private sector. And if they’re not is that because they are ‘worse’ or because the ‘top’ people are not managing them as effectively… A debate for later maybe???

  2. […] is so busy anyway that the only important project is the next one you are working on.  We’ve spoken before about the public sector’s seeming inability to effectively project manage a piece of work, […]

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