I used to work for a company at which the president yelled at the vice-presidents on a daily basis. He would fume, insult and bully throughout the day, and even at special events, such as when he levelled an attack at a vice-president during his Christmas dinner speech, literally during what was described in the program as a 'blessing'.
At some point, the vice-presidents began to fume, insult and bully the general managers. And so on down to lower management. And so on to the employees. And pretty soon - yep, you guessed it - engagement plummeted. We're talking about 25 points on a 100 point scale in two years. In fact, the last engagement survey was boycotted by many and many simply rated every question at its lowest possible answer, and did not provide a single word or comment within the survey, with the exception of a few employees who provided the exact same line for every comment section, which read something like 'I'm not providing feedback because it won't matter'.
No one even wanted to be at work anymore. It was a caustic, dreadful place. In point of fact, it was making people sick.
The Federal Public Sector
Recently it was learned, through the media, that Public Sector sick days cost $1B a year:
The internal Treasury Board report indicates federal public servants are staying home an average of 18 working days a year, or almost a full month off the job.
That is about 2½ times the average rate of absenteeism in Canadian private industry, and almost twice the level of sick leave and disability claims in the rest of the public sector.
Tony Clement, MD
The response from Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, was swift, predictable and telling: Blame the Employees
If you want employees to only take sick days when they're truly sick, then you need engaged employees.
It's no secret that the current government are bullies. Just watch Question Period or read the news. Watch the way they voted down every one of 700 amendments to the omnibus budget bill. Watch Dean Del Mastro or Randy Hoback in committee. Watch David Wilks dripping with emasculation after he tried to put on a brave face for his constituents. Watch MPs blame bureaucrats for unpopular decisions that they themselves voted for. Watch the crude, belligerent attack ads. Watch Conservative MPs yell down dissenting opinions on political talk shows. You can see it every day.
And of course this attitude pervades the lower eschelons of bureaucracy. The top bureaucrats are lambasted by government officials, who in turn emasculate and bully lower bureaucrats. And so on.
Could it be low engagement?
Is it possible that the bully culture has created an endemic system of bullying and apathy within the federal bureacracy? It is not only possible, it is probable.
Engagement is affected by two thing (primarily):
- Direct management
As we've mentioned earlier, a bully culture would definitely lower engagement. Low engagement means people are less proud of their work and less loyal to their workplace. Less loyalty means that benefits are used up. What Tony "Doc" Clement fails to realize is that sick leave is a benefit, and stressed, non-engaged employees are far more likely to use sick leave because they have no loyalty to the company, since it is stressing them out every day. Their job is a paycheque and nothing more. Their benefits are their benefits and while an engaged employee might not feel a headache should keep them from work, a non-engaged employee might stay home at the slightest sickness-related provocation or symptom.
Could it be stress?
And is it possible that stress is making people sick? I think anyone who has held a job knows that stress can make a person sick.
High levels of stress = high levels of absenteeism. This affects all levels of work, including the Senate, as Patrick Brazeau illustrated this week.
If absenteeism runs rampant in an organization, it is usually a clear indication that either management is stressing out the employees or the pay structure is insufficient. Since the pay and benefits of federal bureaucrats seems to be livable, it stands to reason that the absenteeism and higher sick leave is a result of a bully culture that pervades the entire federal apparatchik. Stress is a sickness, and one does not have to look very far to see evidence that federal employees are stressed out, possibly to a breaking point.