Public servants deliver the government’s agenda and serve Canadians in policy, program management, and frontline delivery. As an individual, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated within such a massive administration. But each and every public servant has value and an important role to play in ensuring that we remain one of the best public service administrations in the world.
We are a team, albeit a really big one, and our purpose is to serve Canadians. We also have a responsibility to make sure that the government as a whole runs efficiently and effectively. This ultimately benefits everyone.
When it comes to your job, you are the subject matter expert, and the onus is on you to do that job to the best of your ability. If you can see any way to save time and money and provide better service, it’s your responsibility to share that information.
In my opinion, if you see a problem and nobody is addressing it, then it’s yours. You may not be able to resolve it, but you can:
• Identify an issue or idea;
• Research possible causes and effects;
• Investigate possible solutions; and/or,
• Bring it to the attention of someone who does have the authority to make the change or take it further.
Anything can be changed given enough time and effort. You just need to decide if a particular cause is worth fighting for.
This does not necessarily mean that every idea you have will be implemented or that every problem you identify will be immediately fixed, but if you do your due diligence then you have fulfilled your responsibility. If nothing happens after that, that’s not on you.
It’s disappointing when an idea or initiative goes nowhere, but you should not get discouraged, because sometimes a “no” really just means “not now.” Sometimes the political climate or the current strategic direction of your organization doesn’t support certain changes, or sometimes it’s just that someone doesn’t agree with you.
Hopefully someone will provide you with feedback, but if you don’t get a satisfying answer you have other choices:
• You can wait for the environment to change;
• You can go around barriers; or
• You can get the rules changed.
These choices all have risks and rewards and they are not necessarily easy. You need to be committed and decide how far you are willing to push to achieve your goal.
You can’t always wait for permission to take action; sometimes you need to empower yourself. Following the rules and adhering to public service values and ethics:
• You can question anything and everything;
• You can always try to make things better; and
• You can participate and involve yourself anywhere that you feel that you can contribute.
Challenging the status quo isn’t comfortable – not every opinion is invited or well received. But you can always learn from the experience and continue to move forward.
You don’t need to go out on a limb alone. In fact, you should talk to your colleagues and, if you have regional operations, you should talk to them too; regional employees should also be talking to each other. The more connections that you form, the better the conversations and the better the ideas.
If you can get a consensus of individuals all working toward the same goal, the voice of many has far more impact than the voice of one.
Getting involved with other informal networks can be helpful as well. The Federal Youth Network (FYN) is comprised of over 60,000 dedicated public servants who volunteer to provide learning tools and opportunities to other public servants and address perceived gaps in the workplace. The National Managers’ Community (NMC) supports mental health, the development of leadership skills and encourages managers to become everyday champions.
A group of engaged individuals, all working together on common goals, is extremely powerful. The more people invested in continuous improvement, the better. This will ensure that the public service evolves and remains an organization that we are all proud to work for.
Happy Public Service Week!