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Monday, November 21, 2016

Saying Goodbye to the "Safe" Government Job

As part of the private sector, I've joked for years that if I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a "safe government job" like my dad told me to.  Instead, I went to for the job in the private sector.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do every day.  But, I haven't loved watching as benefits have eroded over the years and employee value has steadily decreased.

As the private sector has watched these things happen, those in government positions have held a safety blanket around their positions.  As described in the Washington Post article, "Trump has a plan for government workers.  They're not going to like it", all this could change under President-elect Trump.

Some people will argue that wages for a government job are often less than those of similar position in the private sector and that the benefits are to offset this.  I argue that though that was once the case, it often is not anymore.

As an example, according to Federalpay.org, the average receptionist salary in 2015 for a government employee was $34,434.86, while the national average in 2016 according to Glassdoor was only $24,800.  Over half of private sector employers do not offer health insurance and few if any benefits.  This is a fact of life for much of our country.  To be fair, a position with more schooling such as a pharmacist has an average salary in 2015 for a government employee of $113,926.96 whereas the national average in the private sector was $120,000.

The hit by the recession was felt hard in the private sector as jobs eroded and benefits disappeared.  I am not advocating that they should be completely equal, it is much more difficult to get a government position than a private sector one.  Often times, it also requires security clearances, these things should be taken into account.

However, if the country is going to slim down the federal government and bureaucracy, then making the federal employee benefits more in line with what is now considered competitive in the private sector is something that will have to come.

Many of the benefits for federal government employees are not going anywhere.  They are not at risk of losing their health benefits as many private sector employees have.  Nor, are they going to lose benefits such as leave.  There is little wiggle room with federal benefits to make changes.

But, Mr. Trump isn't just talking about benefits though.  In fact, one of the things he is also talking about is the ability to fire a federal employee.  This can be a tricky slope, and maybe, just maybe, this is one place that the man known for "You're fired" could be person to make it happen.  Employees no matter who they work for should be held accountable for doing the job they are hired to do.  If they don't, then they either need to buck up and do it, or find something else.

Don't be surprised if Mr. Trump puts a hiring freeze, or at least a limit to new hiring, into effect when he comes into office.  I won't be.  And, there is ample precedent to do just that.  Once he is in office and is able to see for himself, we shall see how it turns out.  His hands on approach may help him here.  He has run his companies with a heavy hand at times, now there will be limits on what he can do.  He won't be able to walk in and fire someone if he doesn't like their attitude or even if they are sitting idle at their desk, but he will be able to help craft a budget or act to put things in place to take care of things.

We can only hope that Mr. Trump uses his experience to review, evaluate and take the right action when it comes to the workplace.  I hope he understands that these employees have often never dealt with what it is like to work in the private sector just as he has never known what it is like to be a federal employee.  It's going to be a learning curve for everyone.