In the U.S.A., federal employees are living under the shadow of the impending sequester. Budget cuts will come into effect next month, and there is no doubt that these will wreak havoc on civil servants’ jobs and agencies as a result.
Officially, furloughs and personnel cuts are to be avoided until after other, less drastic changes are first made. However, these changes include “gradual reductions,” which can be just as damaging, if not more so. Gradual reductions are the practices of retaining as many employees as possible with minimum reorganization, achieved through pay freezes, hiring freezes and encouraged retirement.
Practices such as these appeal to employers eager to avoid the daunting prospect of doling out unpaid leave. But, gradual reduction can leave lingering, poisonous effects on workplace culture. Employees with no possibility of promotion can become unmotivated and lose faith that good work will be rewarded. New talent will not seek federal work, given the risks it has, and ambitious current employees might entertain other, better paying prospects. Retirees may feel bitter at facing an early end.
No effects of the sequester will be pleasant. Furloughs and lay offs can be compared to quick amputation: quick, painful and sharp. Gradual reduction is more like a dry rot which appears harmless, but which eats away at the productivity of an organization.
What Canadian executives can learn from the American sequester is that employees cannot be productive and feel that they will not be rewarded or that they are expendable. Our Editor in Chief compared the sequester to the sword of Damocles; I have a more contemporary image. No employee wishes to work hard and faithfully only to find that, like Clark Griswold, the long promised bonus has been cancelled and replaced with a magazine subscription to Jelly of the Month. Always make sure that employees are motivated with the prospects of advancement, financial compensation, and other practices that inspire trust in the long-term stability of work in the public sector.
What are your thoughts on personnel cuts? How should employers handle a no-win situation like a mandatory budget cut? Tell us in the comments?