Do public sector employees work less than their private sector counterparts? A simple Google search of “government employee meme” results to hundreds of memes portraying public sector employees as mediocre, lazy, and incompetent. While a lot are exaggerations, these memes reflect how the public perceives civil servants. Government agencies, particularly those that provide frontline services, are deemed inefficient and disorganized. They are also seen as resistant to new technologies and methodologies that can increase their productivity.

There is a preconception that the problem lies with the “government employee” but with careful examination, the root of the problem is really the system under which the government work is done. Working for the public sector is perceived to be quite a sacrifice. Employees get less in terms of compensation and benefits compared to their counterparts in the private sector. At the same time, the organization itself is very bureaucratic and slow to evolve. Meanwhile, the private sector offers more benefits. It is also seen as “cutting edge” and “innovative”. Because of these, many potential employees veer away and choose to work in the private sector. While the private sector has its own share of incompetence and corrupt behavior, it has more self-corrective measures compared to the public sector. For example, a corrupt employee eventually loses the job, or a wasteful company is usually driven out by competition. Civil Service codes and worker unions make it almost impossible to fire poor and bad performers in a government office. This impacts the entire public sector and undermines the respect of the public to government employees. Another issue that is believed to contribute to this perception is that because government employees do not share in the profits made by the organization, they do not feel motivated enough to perform well.  Government employees are also compelled to do significant amount of administrative tasks, thus reducing their time to actually do their work. Not all public employees are bad. In fact, many are doing the best in their jobs despite all the challenges in public sector.  To keep the employees satisfied and thus more productive at work, there should be active and effective leadership, effective two-way communications, setting of clear goals and objectives, elimination of bureaucracy, and creation of teamwork. It is also important to keep the employees happy and it could be done through positive motivation and frequent recognition of employee achievement.