Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Once upon a time, there was a certain tree-related federal agency that was productive, mostly paid for itself by harvesting a renewable resource, benefited the local and national economy, and was well-liked by the public. Somehow it turned into a ponderous, faceless, bureaucratic for-shit do-nothing federal monstrosity.

The so-called leaders of this agency were puzzled by this, so they spent lots of money having outside, private agencies do “studies” of themselves for them. In government acronym-ese, the results showed that USDA FS was FUBAR. These are some of the actual comments they received from their employees.

When asked what advice they would give their “leaders”, some folks said:

Do what is right for the resource, not what’s right for your career.
Don’t focus so much on process. Focus more on the needs of the public and the day-to-day operations at the district level.
Lead! Be a supervisor! Be the boss!
Admit you can’t do the job.
Probably time to retire.
Support lower paid, on-the-ground workers. Less planning and more action.
Care for the land and serve the people.
Hire the right people for the job, not the right diversity candidate.
Find a way to start moving the overall atmosphere from a severely negative one to a more positive one.
Listen to employees and public and incorporate their suggestions and comments. Don’t just give “lip service.”
Really listen to the district folks and remember that is where the real work is done.
Consider your lower-level employees and what they contribute to the forests and districts. They seem to be overlooked.

When asked for a single example of something they were proud of in their agency, the employees said:

I haven’t felt pride or accomplishment in a long time. Our new motto: “Neglecting the land and serving the computer.”
Helping external customers get through the government regulations to work with this difficult agency.
District post and pole program for 14 years until it was ruined when (blank) Project was back-burnered.
Don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I have a do-nothing job and supervisor who won’t let me do anything.
Can’t think of anything. My job impacts nothing.
Learning not to take job personally.
Just happy to get work done despite personnel work, electronic training, software support I need to get. Don’t know how long I can keep it up.
Providing a decent quality recreation program despite little or no management support.

When the “Leadership” Team, which consisted of fat-ass bureaucrats whose only functions were to hold down desks and generate meaningless paperwork in feeble attempts to justify their high-paid positions, saw these results, chaos reined.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” the Big Cheese shouted. “We must do something to protect our phony-baloney jobs! Immediately! Immediately! Immediately!”

“Harrumph!” Responded the “Leadership” Team, in unison and three-part harmony.

“Let us descend from Mount Olympus and placate the masses,” said the Big Cheese. “But be careful not to touch them. They are dirty from actual work.”

So the Big Cheese and the “Leadership” Team descended upon the peasants. In accordance with the rules, they provided a sign language translator.

“Peasants, peons and assorted working vermin!” The Big Cheese welcomed them grandiosely. “I come before you to say that we have heard your voices crying out in the wilderness and wish to say…”

The Big Cheese droned on for several minutes. The translator listened for a long time, then signed, “Meaningless platitudes, delivered in a condescending manner, meant to appease you. There is absolutely no substance to be found in these statements.”

Then one of the Big Cheese’s little cronies in the “Leadership” Team went into a driveling spiel starting with, “We know there may have been a few minor teething problems with the new systems we have introduced but….”

She then droned on for more long few minutes. The translator signed, “The system is hopelessly broken in all areas. Absolutely nothing will be done to fix it. At best, a superficial name change may be enacted to trick you into thinking you may be dealing with a different entity. Your support system is a pathetic joke; it does not work and will never work, but you are stuck with it because none of your ‘Leaders’ would dare to rock the boat and point out that the emperor has no clothes. You are all screwed. Get used to it.”

Then another “Leader” took time out from stabbing another “Leader” in the back to enlarge his own personal little fiefdom, and began, “In the interest of inspiring meaningful dialog and addressing the needs of our employees, we seek to open the lines of communication to…” The translator made grossly exaggerated pantomime jerking off motions.

Finally, the “Leaders” ascended back to Mount Olympus, making sure to wash their hands before leaving. After all, they were important and had great things to contemplate. Like why they could not get any young people and college graduates to come work for their agency, why anyone who had half a chance was retiring early, why their employees were quitting and seeking work elsewhere, and why the ones who stayed were apathetic and indifferent.

“I know!” Said the Big Cheese. “We can solve all these problems by hiring a more diverse, but completely unqualified, workforce!”

The “Leadership” Team clapped and harrumphed in unison and three part harmony.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Atleast the federal government is consistent. Sounds like they treat their employees like they do the taxpaying public: rewarding sloth and incompetence, penalizing hard work and responsibility.

I can't wait until this bunch of yo-yos is in charge of my healthcare! U.S.A! U.S.A!