The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

How To Sack A Civil Servant

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 15, 2009 @ 06:30

Of course, before this scenario is enacted, one has to comply with all relevant legislation and conduct a through job performance evaluation, attaching appropriate, relevant, unbiased evidence over a period of time...

Of course, before this scenario is enacted, one has to comply with all relevant legislation and conduct a through job performance evaluation, attaching appropriate, relevant, unbiased evidence over a period of time...

As someone with many contacts who work in the civil service, this morning’s article on BBC News about bureaucrats having “no fear of the sack” is particularly interesting.

The article only talks about “senior” civil servants. But I can assure you all that the article is applicable across the entire service.

The problem seems to be that, unless the member of staff commits obvious gross misconduct, or is actually removed through genuine redundancy, a job in the civil service is extraordinarily well protected, regardless of performance level.

Now, I’m not so miserable as to be calling for more and more people to be sacked… but there does come a point where the tales I hear make me wonder just how some idiots got jobs in the first place.

There is a government agency that is current very high in the news agenda. It has, like most departments, got lots and lots of staff.

I understand from my sources that a significant number of these staff are incompetent. In any other half-decent private sector organisation they would have been moved on by now for the fact that they simply cannot do their job. It’s not that they are not trained sufficiently; it is simply a grave error that they were employed in the first place, a failure to weed out the brain dead at interview stage. This tends to happen when a new agency is formed – a large wave of recruitment washes onshore a great deal of debris.

And getting rid of them is a challenge any line manager would avoid like the plague. The procedures for getting someone sacked are long and onerous. Most managers don’t tend to stick around for long enough to see them through, and in any case the managers may actually be too close to those underneath them to want to do anything about it, such is the nature of the hierarchy in the agency in question. (We’re talking about an EO wanting to sack an AO)

Even if they did want to do something about it, they are open to challenge at every turn, facing union action and legal procedures that most sane people just wouldn’t want to trouble themselves with at work. Particularly if their days are stressful enough as it is.

So the incompetence remains, badly affecting the performance of the agency. Some cracks are papered over, but not without the effort of the better staff, upon whom extra work falls in order to make up for the shortfall.

My sources also confirm that, as in the news article above, the problem is very much one in senior management too. The SEOs and Grade 7s are frequently “moved sideways” if it appears they are unable to do their job, upon which time they will simply unleash their idiocy on another section of the agency.

That’s not to say the private sector is a beacon of human resources best practice. Some places are just as bad.

But when it comes to the vital question of whether taxpayers’ money is being spent on delivering efficient and effective public services, there is an endemic culture of tolerating failure that needs a thorough examination.

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