Motivating our Public Servants

Fiscal-CliffHere in Washington, DC almost every conversation has related, in some way, to the fiscal cliff. The country and the world are watching Congress and the President to see if our elected leaders can act like grown-ups and come to a compromise.

As we watch the back-and-forth of this diatribe, ASPA remains concerned about the impact on our public servants. Dedicated, hardworking employees at the federal and even the state level have become the targets of relentless attacks by our elected officials and others.  I guess it’s no surprise that a recent government wide employee survey found that employee satisfaction is falling in 66 of 77 categories.  The Federal Times who reported on the results of the survey noted:

“The results are especially emphatic because of a record-breaking 687,687 employees responded – for a response rate of 46 percent, more than double the number of any previous survey.”

And this news report is not the first to highlight the declining morale of public servants across the country. Recently, GovExecutive took a twist to this growing trend and reminded government employees and nonprofit workers WHY they chose their field. In a commentary written by Deputy Administrator at the Social Security Administration, Reginald Wells reminds:

“Without proper attention to our employees’ morale, we will be hard-pressed to weather the turbulence successfully. 

From my perspective, it all begins at the top. Leadership must set the tone by communicating service expectations and offering transparency about the nature of problems affecting the agency and its workforce.”

With a focus on leadership and their role in ensuring a highly motivated and productive workforce, ASPA has been diligent with our promotion of our Memos to National Leaders. This has been a groundbreaking effort by ASPA and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to highlight key challenges that face our country and to gather a group of experts to give recommendations.

IMG_0857Within the Memos, experts focused on ways that the President and Congress can tackle management issues. And a central theme of each memo is that our national leaders must involve the public servants whose every day job is to implement and administer policies.  It is the ‘street level’ bureaucrats who ensure that services are delivered, people are served and goods are received.  At every launch of a memo, we had an audience filled with public servants at the federal and state level who was interested in the intricacies of our recommendations. Why? Because they too want to know how they can do their job better.

As national organizations focused on good governance, employee professionalism and effective management, the Memos to National Leaders project is a rare moment when ASPA and NAPA have gone very public with their expertise. As Paul Posner, chair of the Memos Steering Committee noted at a an event this summer that revealed the first of the nine Memos, ASPA and NAPA have always been at the forefront of offering their expertise on management and administration. However, this has usually been done behind closed doors. This year, we wanted to go public because the challenges that confront the country deserve an open-door conversation.

We have garnered attention for the Memos and within the offices of those who can make a change, the conversations are taking place. But it will take time. We know this. But we want to keep the conversation going. And we will.

Read our memos and let us know what you think.  Email ASPA at with your thoughts and comments.

Strengthening the Federal Budget Process

Rationalizing the Inter-governmental Process

Administrative Leadership

Strengthening the Federal Workforce

Reorganization of Government

Information Technology and Transparency

Managing Big Initiatives

Next Steps in Improving Performance

Managing Large Task Public-Private Partnerships


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