To be transparent, I’m retired and I spent approximately 38 years working for the US Federal Government in the Department of Transportation, Department of Interior, Department of Army, and the Department of Defense. Almost all of that time was spent in leadership positions to include working as a human resources director. I also spent time in the military as a US Army officer and I’m a veteran. During my career, I witnessed firsthand the hard work and dedication displayed by hundreds of federal employees who I personally worked with, for, and supervised. Federal employees come to work ready and qualified to do their jobs and proud to serve their country in the civil service. What’s more, the federal government led the way to diversify the federal workforce by hiring minorities, women, disabled persons, and veterans when private businesses lagged behind offering employment opportunities to these groups of Americans. The perception of federal workers as being overpaid, under-qualified, and not hard working is just plain wrong. I witnessed numerous public-private competitions where the federal government won the competitive bid because the federal workforce was more cost efficient than their private industry counterparts. Also, the percentage of federal workers to the total American workforce has been declining for decades. Today, federal government workers account for one out of every 66 US workers compared to one out of every 28 workers 40 years ago. Admittedly, just like any large employer in private industry, there are a small percentage of federal workers with poor performance or unacceptable conduct and they need to be disciplined.
However, every time the need arises to reduce the budget, federal employees become an easy target for politicians to vilify and call for significant reductions in the number of federal workers and to reduce their benefits. And so it is today, with the government shutdown and latest round of budget crises and impasses. Much of the federal work force has been furloughed and is being used as leverage by polarizing politicians who are more concerned with winning than finding practical solutions. As the government shutdown continues, it has brought to light just how important federal workers are to our society because they provide critical services and need to be doing their jobs. Clearly, these workers should have never been furloughed in the first place. It’s time to stop demeaning the federal worker and instead show appreciation for American citizens that are working every day to support our country.
Paul Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This book describes the art of leadership including how to deal with poor managers that can cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit