Delusions of grandeur
About two years ago one of my close friends got herself a new job in a neighbouring public sector institution. The new job was a step up and my colleagues and I were amazed that her new job provided her with a PA. If you’ve got a PA, we thought, you’ve really made it.
I was recently reminded about this as my friend moved on to a new challenge in a new country. So in her honour here are the top five trappings that (really don’t) show that you’ve made ‘it’ in local government.
1) You have a PA. I have no idea what I’d do if I had a PA; I think I like being in control of my own life too much to be at the whim of someone else. That being said, I’ve done the job and genuinely believe that I played a highly valuable role in keeping my boss in the right place at the right time and ensuring that what he (and yes, it was a man; stereotype or no stereotype) wanted to get delivered was delivered (usually by me). Maybe it’s a mindset thing and once you’re there you know how to make use of them?
2) You are allowed your own office. Gone are the days when every manager had their own office; now in the world of the open plan, if you have an office you have truly made it. I once worked in a team which wanted to abandon offices altogether and set up a totally office free floor. We then appointed a new director and the first thing he did was build himself (well, we got people in but you know what I mean), and his senior management team, a set of offices.
3) You are provided with a work Blackberry. Most of my private sector friends think that a blackberry is a form of evil doing sent down by the patron saint of capitalists to keep them tied to their work. (That being said they never turn them off or stop fiddling with them!) However, in local government the blackberry is given out sparingly and only to those senior enough to be expected to respond to an e-mail out of hours (those for whom timesheets are no longer needed).
4) You are invited to speak at council meetings. What a dubious reward for working your way up the slippery ladder of bureaucratic hierarchy; a life time’s pass to evening council meetings! However, one of the great frustrations of being a junior officer is that you are always quite a few steps away from the real decision makers. Suddenly, as a big cheese, you not only get to talk to councillors but you get to go along to their meetings and be involved in the decision making process. Yes, this takes up a lot of evenings and leads to more heart stress than my local greasy spoon’s ‘super all day breakfast’ but this is what local government is all about.
5) Eric Pickles wants to include you and your salary on his latest hit list of fat cat bureaucrats!