April may be the cruellest month but Friday is definitely now the cruellest day for public sector workers. Back in August I posted about the misery of finding out through the media that your employer and your job are suddenly at risk. Well today saw a repeat performance with the leak to the BBC of a long list of Quangos that will apparently be tossed on the bonfire of the Quangos that no government has ever quite managed to set alight.
There will be many families tonight and through this weekend suddenly fearful about their future. I’m sure tears will be shed. Plans put on hold. And angry words expressed about public sector HR management by leak and press release.
Lots of commentators have said the government’s deficit reduction and Big Society plans are the largest HR project in this country’s history. I agree with them. But everything I know about being a good manager tells me that treating people in this cavalier fashion is wrong. Plain wrong. Wrong.
That’s not a political point. This is not a political blog. My focus is the human cost of these changes for public servants.
One leak is a mishap. Two looks like a lack of basic good manners. Three and you begin to wonder about competence. Four? Well, four and over sets any experienced public servant to wondering whether this is a conscious shift in managerial style.
I hear on the news that the government regrets the uncertainty the leak has caused the employees of the organisations on the list and has set up a leak enquiry. I was immediately and irresistibly put in mind of Yes, Minister and specifically what Jim Hacker says about leak enquiries in the episode The Bed of Nails.
” I was surprised that Bernard didn’t know the rules of the leak enquiry game. Leak enquiries are never embarrassing because they never actually happen. Leak enquiries are for setting up, not for actually conducting …”
My thoughts this weekend however are for the men and women who have been doing their jobs faithfully, quietly and for the public. People who together with their families find themselves the unwanted object of media interest. It’s horrid. I hope this fellow-feeling helps a bit. In truth some of us really are in this together.