You Might Be A Bureaucrat If….

By on March 25, 2016 in Pay & Benefits with 16 Comments

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A recent Government Executive article quoted Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer saying “nothing makes me angry like hearing a member on the floor of the House use bureaucrat as an epithet.”

Bureaucrat is one of those words that can be used as a slur, an epithet, and/or an insult, but it can also be used to praise someone who understands how government works and uses that knowledge to make it work better. More often than not, we see it used to denigrate the contributions federal workers make. I can understand why Mr. Hoyer made his remarks.

Those of us who spent decades in government have seen federal workers who represent the best and worst meanings of “bureaucrat.” Most of the Feds I have worked with represent “bureaucrat” in its higher form – those experts whose work makes government work. So, in honor of those good people, and with tongue firmly in cheek, I offer a few ways to tell if you are a Bureaucrat (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy).

  • If you proposed to your wife-to-be by saying “I have assessed a multitude of options and ascertained that the heretofore acceptable status of “single” is an unsustainable option for the out years, therefore I am promulgating this proposal of marriage” – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If you don’t know if you will get paid when you show up for work on October 1, because Congress forgot to pass a budget – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If your boss shifts gears faster than a Ferrari – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If your friends don’t care what you do for a living, until their kid gets out of college and wants a job – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If you regret signing up for telework when everyone else gets a snow day and you have to sit at home and work – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If the Cato (wasn’t he the Green Hornet’s partner?) Institute says you are overpaid by 34% and the President’s Pay Agent says you are underpaid by 25%, but all you know is you want is a QSI when you get your next rating – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If the new person who you had to train how to do his job just got promoted to be your boss – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If the boss who made you read “Who Moved My Cheese” is really a rat – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If you just got reorganized but you are still assigned to the job description from two reorganizations back – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If “close enough for government work” is offensive to you – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • If your agency says “people are our most important resource” but they put you in 6 foot cubicles to work – you might be a Bureaucrat.
  • IYKWTAM  – you might be a Bureaucrat.

And finally…

  • If you go to work every day, do your job to the best of your ability, look out for the taxpayers’ interests, work overtime without compensation, and care deeply about America – you might be a Bureaucrat.

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal's blog, ChiefHRO.com, and has been reposted here with permission from the author. Visit ChiefHRO.com to read more of Jeff's articles regarding federal human resources and other current events along with his insights on reforming the HR system.

© 2016 Jeff Neal. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Jeff Neal.

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About the Author

Jeff Neal is a senior vice president for ICF International and founder of the blog, ChiefHRO.com. He formerly served in the Obama Administration as Chief Human Capital Officer for the Department of Homeland Security and Chief Human Resources Officer for the Defense Logistics Agency. Jeff is also a Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration and a Partnership for Public Service SAGE.

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