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Confronting the culture of fear in government

It is a common view among observers of the operations of the federal government that agencies are often hobbled by a culture of fear. 

Civil servants are terrified that if they ever make a mistake, the boom will be lowered on them (the words “get fired” are often used), while success doesn’t garner corresponding rewards. In such an environment, even prudent risk-taking is shunned, since taking a risk will sometimes produce failure. The government, and citizens, suffer from the inability to reap the benefits of innovation.

I have sometimes thought that this widespread view to some extent involves government folks being afraid of their own shadows. Government is not exactly known for draconian accountability – people are hardly fired all the time, to put it mildly – and it is legitimate to ask whether there are any significant penalties for failure in government organizations. Having thought about it, though, I have drawn the conclusion that what drives fear is not tangible punishments but rather the dread of being publicly humiliated for being dumb, lazy or venal.

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Article from FCW


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Tags: human resources, civil service reform

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