I’ve been very open and frank about one’s struggles in terms of working in public service. Should a public service officer be serving the people right in front of them based on what is possible, potentially stretching themselves dry and yet having to meet high level policy objectives or should they toe the policy line and just try to serve in accordance to what the policy allows and don’t? I think the truth is we are expected to be both, and they are often fundamentally at odds. The fact such political realities contaminate the work of public service officers feel really distasteful but so many people face it day to day.
They face it within the environment where there’s emphasis on company performance and yet also demands for managers to care about their people. How many companies hold management meetings on staff welfare metrics regularly? How often do shareholders ask the CEO how the employees or staff are responding to the new strategy to bring in new businesses?
And they face it again when they are under pressure to sell to clients but they are under-resourced to truly meet clients’ needs. There’s the question of who you should be serving? The clients, or your boss? In the case of public service; the people directly, or your management, or the political masters? Or the cabinet?
We are all sandwiched by these competing demands and tensions. They didn’t use to exist when we were building up the entire system and network with a more common objective. They appear less visible when diversity wasn’t the focus and people were just supposed to stay in ‘their place’ in society. They were not the point of policies when we could see the potential to grow and improve lives with clearly marked signposts of development. But we no longer do, and so we are sandwiched.