Monday, October 6, 2014

Blame Is The Name Of The Game

Blame. All too often people would rather pass it along rather than taking ownership if it is theirs. So who is at fault when someone messes up? What about when an organization is on the line for dropping the ball? Is the the big boss, the worker bee or middle management who is at fault? Who decides and how do they decide? What about when the problem is with a government agency? Do the rights civil servants take precedent over those of political appointees? Or vice versa.

 I am pondering all of this in the wake of the most recent government scandal. This time it is the Secret Service that has come under fire and intense scrutiny; just a few months ago it was the Veteran's Administration, and before that it was the Department of State. In these overly publicized instances a series of high profile mistakes (?), instances of poor judgement (?) cover ups and issues of mismanagement (?) have raised both political and public ire at institutions that are supposed to maintain security serve and protect the people. So why does this happen and more importantly, what is to be done about it? Surely yet another congressional inquiry is not going to solve the problem..... Sadly, it seems as though very public mistakes have become the norm in our society. It begs the question of whether there have always been mistakes that were easier to hide in a less connected world or if suddenly the officials we trust to run our government just aren't doing their jobs as well as their predecessors did.

In the above cited incidents, rabid members of Congress were awakened out of their slumber and held hearing where they ultimately held the politically appointed heads of these agencies responsible for the actions of the people below them. I am all for responsibility and accountability going all the way up to the top of the chain of command but it isn't always as clear cut as it should be. Politically appointed agency and department leaders inherit institutions with deep cultures and ways of doing things. That isn't to say that they shouldn't change things, in fact they are usually appointed to do just that. But can they really? I mean, just as it takes time to create a culture it takes time to change one. And if the infrastructure to make those changes isn't there, can they even do it at all? If employees are protected by workers unions how easy is it to really dismiss, or even reprimand, an employee who isn't doing their job correctly? Can you fire people at all levels of the chain of command for a mistake? (I personally don't see why not but I can only imagine the gasps of horror that would hoover over Washington if that was to actually happen).

Poor morale and budget restraints have been cited as problems that created the conditions that lead to the above cited instances of poor performance. But these are government agencies who rely upon the Federal government for their funding. Even the most outstanding leader would have a hard time efficiently running an organization if they aren't provided with adequate resources. If not enough money is allocated for personnel, how are department directors supposed to hire people to perform the tasks? Is moral poor because employees are over worked? Are good employees demoralized by having to work alongside inept co-workers for the same pay and benefits? Is an agency willing to use their resources to take on a employee union fighting for the rights of their members (regardless of how good or not good their performances are)? And at the end of the day all of the agencies, and their employees for that matter, are pawns in a political game. Perhaps politics is to blame so does that mean that it is really the fault of Congress?

But at the end of the day, to whom do we assign the blame? Maybe a special congressional investigative panel-- who would investigate Congress itself--will be able to find out!

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