How important is morale of career service in the civil service?
Merriam Webster defined morale as “the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand”. In other groups, this is termed as “esprit de corps”. As it applies to civil service, let us look and define the two basic approach – the traditional and the modern approach.
Traditional approach is based on familiarity and group cohesiveness. Morale is inherent the moment you entered the group. This approach, although more binding than the modern approach, lacks interaction to and from the outside. An example of this is military service. Morale is interchangeably used with esprit de corps as applied to their batch mates. Each treats the other belonging to the same class as an integral part of the group. Though it operates on the chain of command, the ties that batch mates made with each other is the strongest among the group.
Modern approach is based on the fact of merit and fitness. One being created is a group with the same line of thinking and with the same or equivalent capabilities. This is more visible in the corporate world. It doesn’t matter if you were years in service or you just came in, for as long as you can handle the kind of job assigned to you. You earn your own title. You will join the group because your personality and capabilities dictates so. There is equal chance for everyone to go up as fast as you can, for as long as you can. This creates a different kind of bond among several groups.
Let us have for an example an office in the government. It’s department head position is vacant. There is an assistant or equivalent next in rank from the department that is qualified to assume the position of head. Then suddenly one from the outside came in, and subsequently appointed as the head of the department. What kind of approach is applicable? You may say it is a modern approach. At the beginning, it might be correct. But to qualify, it must be acceptable to the group which one now belongs – the group of department heads. Is the appointment acceptable to them? If the answer will be “No”, there’s now a problem. It will be very certain that the department itself cannot easily absorb the kind of demoralization it had when someone from the outside just rule them. But if it gained respect and acceptance from the department heads themselves (other departments), then it will be a matter of time before such scar will heal.
As first defined, the modern approach is more fit to apply with the corporate world where you can impose practically any rule even without knowing most of the agency rules. This may not hold true in the government service. There are a lot of laws, rules and regulations, conduct and ethical standards that must be observed. If those from the outside were never been to career (government) service, it will be very hard to see how they could fit in the system. You will find them making their own rules. You will find them crawling in the dark on what particular rule will apply. You will find them usually isolated from their departments, and worse from the department heads as well. Not good for the agency. This would be an approach of the third kind that we will call the “destructive approach”.
It is chaotic for a private individual who just came in and rule a department of a government. Needless to say, it will of course be valid since appointment is a political question. But the effectiveness of such approach will be based on the acceptance of any one group from the ranks or from the heads. Partial acceptance is partial success. Imagine one head taking the department as a private enterprise where one can impose rules contrary or inconsistent with government standards? Or by applying some rules without knowing of other rules that should be taken in pari materia with the others? Was there enough justice for subordinates who may have known it better?
True there may be a lot of incompetent individuals out there waiting for promotions and will neither lead the department into the highest standard of excellence in public service. But you don’t just pick someone from the outside to cure the problem. You don’t send a deer to rule lions, or a chicken to lead the crocodiles, or a clown fish to dominate barracudas. You only send a human being, man enough to know the group but animal-like to mingle with. You will later find out that morale is something from within and not that one dictated. Although each of their kinds could have possibly ruled, lead or dominated theirs, an outsider with heart and passion of a leader without the sword and spears of tyranny is a sufficient substitute.
Civil service is not military nor trade. It is also not a playground. It is a serious organization the people vested not power, but the privilege to serve.