Sense of mission overrides frustration for many feds

Why would anyone go to work for the government at a time when employees' salaries are the target of cost-cutting measures and morale is deteriorating? We asked our readers why they work for the government, and they gave us some good reasons.

The most common were job fulfillment and making a difference in the lives of citizens. So is fulfilling agencies' missions. A reader named Doug brimmed over with enthusiasm for his job at the Defense Department.

“Our national defense needs to be better than the rest,” Doug told us. "And I find that challenge in this day and age of rapid technology evolution exciting."

Some employees expressed satisfaction in doing work that's only possible in the public sector. A clinical researcher wrote of being able to conduct research as a government employee that no pharmaceutical company would undertake.

“I want to use my abilities to help our veterans by improving their health care,” the reader said. "I just can't work for a private company. That's why I am still a fed."

That sense of mission and purpose was a common thread among the readers who were not frustrated with federal work — and even some who were.

“I drive a 2002 Honda, and most of the contractors are driving late-model vehicles. I think that tells us something” about the cost of contractors, one reader wrote. “I stay [in the government] because I feel that I am contributing to the mission of the organization, and I am passionate about it. I also think it is important to have someone with a sense of how the organization works and who understands the priorities to provide oversight and guidance.”

But some wondered whether those reasons would continue to apply in the future. One reader started a career at the Treasury Department, took time off to raise a family and then came back to Treasury after an interim job with a county government. The employee returned because it was "the prudent thing to do" but found low morale, antiquated IT systems, and inadequate funding and staffing.

“Conditions have deteriorated recently,” the reader wrote. “Congress passes laws requiring immediate changes that cannot be quickly implemented [and] are often unfunded. I cannot see how the government will continue to attract or keep the best and brightest new employees if they remove every incentive there is to work here.”

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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