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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Motivating Public Employees

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that states need to "reexamine their obligations to public employees" in the wake of the poor snow removal after the Northeast blizzard last week.

Christie made his comments on Sean Hannity's radio program, syndicated nationally. (Link:

This statement is a strategic mistake. It tells public employees that they should prepare for pay freezes, increased contributions for benefits such as health insurance, pay cuts, furloughs, any combination of the above, or even layoffs.

Given this message, how does one expect public employees to react? It seems that public employees are expected to do their jobs, altruistically or because it is "their job.".

Others already feel that public employees as a class are underworked and overpaid, and that some ought to be fired.

Regardless of how justified these beliefs are -- the basis for those beliefs is not the issue. The issue is how to motivate public employees to give 110 percent when the public good -- no, the public safety -- demands it.

Fiscal austerity presents a challenge. Employees will produce better if treated like partners and valued workers.

But if they are treated like the slaves in the galley of the Roman ships from the Charlton Heston classic "Ben Hur," ("Ramming speed!"), you can only whip them so much until they collapse.

If treated like enemies of the state, public employees may act the role.

Governor Christie, and other mayors and governors, need to think, and lead, strategically and talk diplomatically to produce results.

Eric Dixon
Eric Dixon LLC
World-Class Strategic Analysis

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