Does motive matter?
Regular readers will know we appreciate guest posts, and recently have been lucky enough to have a number of these sent into us. If you’ve got something you would like to send in you can always find us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Todays guest post poses a very interesting question around motives and ethics, and we’re looking forward to hearing what you think about it. Of course, that means you’re going to have to read it first…
I am a fraud.
To be clear about this, I’m not saying I commit fraud, merely that I am one. I found myself considering this after several meetings with officers and councillors recently regarding my area of work. I spoke with them all at length over the course of several meetings, looking at a range of projects and trying to get their buy-in to my plans as well as to excite them about the potential outcomes. Through my one-to-one meetings with my manager and informal feedback from others I heard that I was developing a very positive reputation, with people particularly appreciating my commitment and enthusiasm.
Of course, I am pleased with this, except for the simple fact that what I am being praised for isn’t real. Well, not entirely anyway. You see, I actually don’t really care about these projects. My enthusiasm and commitment is required to get the tasks I have completed and deliver successful outcomes. The perceived passion is actually a tactic to achieve my end goals. Machiavelli would no doubt approve.
Let me start by going back a little. I didn’t get into this job for the pension (despite what some of the papers may say about public sector workers), I didn’t go into it for the high pay, I didn’t even particularly do it for the sense of pride and achievement that providing public services engenders. I originally came into the public sector because they offered me a job. It roughly matched what I was doing before, paid similarly and was a little bit of a change. Fast forward on many years, several internal role changes and a couple of promotions and I’m still in the public sector providing similar ranges of services as before.
Has my attitude changed in this time? Have I developed a sense that the public sector is the only place for me, and that I need to stay here in order to serve the public and deliver vital services for our communities and for vulnerable people?
Well, not really.
My career path and the number and range of successful projects I have been involved with or responsible for shows a degree of competence, and over the course of the last decade or so I have directly or indirectly supported a huge number of individuals, organisations, teams, services and communities. I know I have made a real difference because the projects I have run have been proven by others to have made a real difference, and I know that I played a key role in all of that. I am not saying it wouldn’t have happened without me, but I’d like to think that I made a positive contribution or two along the way.
But at no time have I considered myself a dyed-in-the-wool public sector worker, proud above all else to be involved in this field and passionate about the work I do.
Many of the projects I eulogise about, bring people together for and whip up enthusiasm around are actually things that I wouldn’t do if I had a choice. Some admittedly do cross over into areas where I find genuine personal interest, but the majority I do because that is what is expected of the role. I deliver them and deliver them well, but lack the fire of conviction that my public reputation appears to support.
My question is simple: does this matter?
Does it matter that I deliver the required projects to the best of my ability even if deep down I don’t really have any interest in them or really care? Does it matter that I look on with envy at those who seem to have found their calling and their place in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t the important thing that these projects achieve or surpass their targets, that I am able to encourage the others that I bring along the way to believe even where I do not?
Perhaps I may be over-egging the pudding here, but hopefully you get my meaning. Many public servants do so for the love of the sector, for the love of their roles and for the love of the difference they make. Others, however, work just as hard and achieve equally remarkable things, all whilst honestly doing it because they need to earn a living, and if a job matches skills even if it doesn’t match interest it will allow them to earn a wage and perform as well as they can.
I know many will not agree with this view, and will instantly leap up to defend themselves and shout from the rooftops about how true passion shines out and makes them go above and beyond the call of duty time and again. I don’t argue with this; indeed I applaud and envy such a truly laudable and noble attitude.
But please don’t think any less of me just because the fire in my belly is more a case of central heating rather than flaming brimstone. I’ll do all I can to be the best I can at whatever I do – for now that’s delivering projects in the public sector, in future it may be the private or perhaps a return to the voluntary.
Who knows, eventually I might just find something I care about and would do in my free time. They say you never work a day in your life if you find a job you enjoy: when I know I’d keep turning up at work even if I won the lottery, maybe then I’ll accept that my days of being a fraud are behind me.
Until then I’ll keep the mask on and keep clocking in.
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