HomeEmploymentStable Government Jobs Promote Laziness

Stable Government Jobs Promote Laziness

Government jobs are stable. It seems like everyone knows that. It’s what makes them so attractive during a recession, and why people say it’s impossible to fire a government employee. There are things you can do that won’t impress your boss, but none of these will have any major consequences at a government job, because of the security associated with them. I think this stability allows people to slack off and be lazy at work because they know there will only be minor consequences.

Job Security in Government Jobs

The reason people think that government jobs are more stable is that to fire someone, there has to be proof of an employee being incapable or simply not doing his job functions. Not doing something well isn’t enough, so there’s a long process of documentation that can take years. It takes time for the supervisor, so many ignore it, promote to a different position so they don’t have to deal with it, or pass that person off to a different department. There is no reward for the supervisor to fire an employee, so in many cases, it’s not a priority and other things take precedence.

Insights into the Work Culture of Government Jobs

Now that we know why government jobs are so stable, we can begin to understand why people behave the way they do. A friend was working on a government contract for several months and every time I spoke to him, he complained about having to pay taxes. Why? Because the people he worked with at the government were so useless. He claimed they did about 10 hours of actual work a week, and he had to sit there thinking about how he was paying taxes into a system that paid them! Maybe I’ll have him guest post and get a good rant out.

Since there are no consequences, there’s no downside to slacking off. And I must admit, it’s hard to blame the employees. I talk all the time about enjoying life, not stressing out, and how sometimes those things are more important than money. Would you rather work 10 a week and hang out with friends the rest of the time or work 40 hours a week just to get a larger raise? I can see why they choose the easier path, but the fact that there is no punishment system only encourages bad behavior.

Reforming the System

There need to be some major changes to the system that punishes poor effort and performance. The government must hold its employees to higher standards. The Citizens Against Government Waste should start here, with the employees, and maybe, just maybe, good employees who work hard will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the government spending that seems to be spiraling out of control.

Readers, what do you think the government could do to encourage their workers to work harder? Is it time to start firing employees who don’t give their best effort?



  1. This has been a problem for centuries in all western societies. Oddly, I find this sort of phenomena in some private sector jobs as well, but perhaps they’re not so brazen. We are starting to see some layoffs at the state and local level due to budget deficits, but the federal government could certainly “cull the herd” a bit without impacting actual service levels. The deficit commission made this recommendation but could get the votes required to send to congress for a vote.

    • @Darwin’s Money, We spoke about this on twitter, but for everyone else, I don’t care about private sector waste, because that hurts the company, which has no impact on me.

      Government waste hurts me! I hate thinking that taxpayer dollars are to a government that wastes it! And as a result we’re in an unfathomable amount of debt!

      • @Daniel,

        Come on Daniel. Private sector waste hurts us all. I call them higher prices and silly fees. Tell me why there is still an airline baggage fee when they had all stated that the fee was to cover high gas prices but gas prices have fallen by $25 a barrel from its highs? Or how about all those extra fees on your cell phone bill? You sneeze and there’s a new fee.

        • @Sandy @ yesiamcheap, True, but they don’t have a responsibility to me. If I don’t want, I can choose not to use that airline or switch phone carriers. There’s competition and the one with the best service at the lowest price wins.

          With the government, I don’t have a choice. I have to pay taxes and when they mis-spend the money, I have to pay more. That straight up sucks.

      • @Daniel, I worked at a large biotech/pharma company for years, and believe me when I say that there is substantial waste in the private sector. This affects you in the form of highly health insurance premiums.

      • @Daniel,
        I work for the federal government and the harder I work the more I am disliked within the system. Sadly, my bosses discourage me from getting things accomplished and set roadblocks from acheiving my basic job duties. We are completely backwards from the civilian sector whick is goal and results driven. My boss has stated “We are here to execute the budget” which means spend the monies given to us. We are not here to make a profit but to provide certain services depending on the industry we are in. I am currently so bored and discouraged that I have a business on the side, manage rent properties, and am in a Masters of Accounting program. This all to fill the empty void of civilian government employment.


  2. I think the fact that budgets continue to go up and up for almost all government agencies give people the comfort of job stability. In the private sector, if your division isn’t performing, there are job cuts. Not so much in government. If people started seeing budgets shrink which made people fearful of their jobs, performance would naturally increase and government would actually start being (gasp) efficient in many more ways.

  3. Since I live in Albany (where most of the jobs are govt related) I have had both a state govt and federal govt job in my career and both were incredibly frustrating to me.

    The state govt job had dozens of people on my floor alone that only had their job because it was impossible to let them go due to the CSEA union (and most were just hanging on so their retirement $ was higher after automatic tier increases).

    The federal job used to look for ways to spend the money the government gave them on things they had absolutely no need for because if they didnt spend every time the govt would give them less money next year. Instead the govt kept giving them more and more and they would spend every time… anyone see a problem here?

    Don’t get me wrong it was nice to have light hours and low stress but I was bored out of my mind working there. As far as I’m concerned 1/2 the people there could leave and nobody would notice. They should be ashamed of themselves, they’re just stealing.

    • @Before You Invest, Thanks for weighing in, it’s good to know I wasn’t making this stuff up!

      It’s amazing that in addition to the employee waste, there’s department-wide waste as well. When you set a bad example, your employees will follow.

  4. To lay a blanket statement implying all government workers are lazy and do 10 hours of work a week is not only wrong, but very dangerous. I know government works – friends and neighbours – who go to work for 7am and don’t return home until 6pm. They then follow up on emails well into the evening. They work their butts off.

    Your friend had one experience in one department. To generalize all govt employees as “useless” due to this friends limited exposure is silly.

    • @Sustainable PF, I’m not saying that everyone who works for the government is lazy, but that the system promotes a workplace where laziness is the norm, if not encouraged. The people you refer to are the people who want to get ahead, which is great, but not the average.

      Read Before You Invest’s comment above. It’s not just one man’s opinion.

      • @Daniel and @Sustainable PF,
        It is not one man’s opinion for sure and they are lazy people in the government employees. But I would also agree with Sustainable PF as I myself experienced a government job as a student and the department I worked in (in Canada) was far from being lazy. Some even worked during week ends and nights (and they had a weekly pay check so those hours did not give them more).
        I think that what brings laziness to some is the feel that they have no power to change anything. I remember some persons with really great ideas who had to face 10-12 levels of approvals before even getting started in the project. I assume it can be very discouraging after a couple of years and some turn out lazy because of that.

  5. They may be stable, but they are not very interesting! The waste in government comes from elected officials. The government workers you refer to are following orders.

  6. I think that the employees arent (the whole) problem, but some get so fed up having to make phone call after phone call, send email after email just to get the simplest thing done. Removing some of the layers of crap they have to deal with could make them more productive – and I’d have to partially agree with sustainablePF – Making a generalization such as this does no favor to the argument and will just cause people to stop listening to you.
    Although, I’d have to say that removing the stability like beagle said could go a long way.

    • @Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog, I’m not saying all government employees are lazy, I simply provided an example that some are. Again, I think the problem is the system, not the employees. It starts at the top.

  7. The Mrs. works for the government and she is not a slacker. Stable job may promote laziness, but not everyone there are lazy. They already have annual review so it would be pretty easy to get rid of some dead weight if they really want to. I say, yes do it. Get rid of some slackers and free up more money for missiles.

    • @retirebyforty, Thanks for the input! It sounds like firing someone is actually pretty difficult in government jobs and possibly is more effort than it’s worth.

      Ask the Mrs. what she thinks and write a follow up post, I’m intrigued on what other government workers have to say!

  8. It’s actually ALSO very difficult to let go of employees in the private sector. It takes plenty of documentation and HR back and forth to fire someone as employees have a lot of protection.

    As a manager in my organization, I’ve been through my fair share of procedures.

    • @Financial Samurai, Have you ever kept someone because of all the documentation needed? Or handed them off, or worse, promoted to a different position so you didn’t have to do with them?

        • @Financial Samurai, Actually, if you are in the US, most states have “at will” employment laws. Which means that employers can fire you for anything, except protected discrimination classes. Any additional hoops of documentation that an employer goes to is more than is necessary by law. (Although it will probably make a lawsuit go in their favor).

  9. I agree with you that some things like the pensions, extremely stable positions make lives easier for the Government employees. They are like a strong union, it take a LOT to fire them I suppose. I know a Government worker, he himself agrees that it takes personal passion to work more than what is minimally required. I would love a Government job :)

  10. I wasn’t really aware that it’s so hard to fire a government employee, and if that is the case then I agree there should be some changes.

    With that being said, if I could change one thing about the government it would be their overspending on everything. I have a buddy who works for an engineering company, and they have two sets of rates: one when they do work for private companies, and one for government projects (which are literally 3-4 times more than the private rates). People that work for the government spend money likes it’s not theirs, because, well, it isn’t theirs. They don’t have to “earn” it, they just get it from taxpayers.

  11. There’s also the matter of seniority. I know that with teaching, not a government job, but similar in that salaries are paid by the state, it’s very difficult to fire a teacher once they reach tenure – which only takes about 3-4 years. At that point, the teacher can come to work drunk, have absolutely no classroom management skills, chat on their cell phones, and basically slough off work without worrying about being fired. They do receive reviews every year or so, but actually firing a teacher is very difficult. Last hired, first fired is their motto.

  12. I am a state employee and am highly offended by your article. I and my fellow co-workers all work very hard! We also do alot of “work” after hours that goes unnpaid! Why? Because we genuinely CARE about the people we serve!

    • @kseahag, Thank you, I’m not trying to pick on individuals, but instead point out the flaws of secure employment. Clearly we have some conflicting reports from those that have worked with government workers and among government workers themselves.

      If everyone was lazy, nothing would ever get done. Clearly not everyone is out the door at 5pm, but do you think the security makes some people not give their job their full effort?

  13. I don’t think it’s about people it’s about the whole system. While you work for private company you can get some benefits or extra pay for longer hours but governmental jobs doesn’t know anything like that. On the other hand I admit that there is an over-employment. There is a space to reduce number of governmental employees but to do that the private sector would have to create much more jobs than is doing now!

  14. There is waste in both the public and private sectors. Many companies/departments in both would benefit from revamping policies and procedures in order to increase efficiency, but there are usually many hoops to jump through.

    Job stability does tend to promote comfort and reduce initiative to a point, but it happens in private companies, as well.

    • @Penny Frugalista, At least they’re not wasting my money when they do it, though. It hurts to know that my money is being wasted. Well run companies will beat out companies that waste too much. There is no alternative to giving money to the government.

  15. I absolutely dread calling government agencies. I used to think they were among the laziest, most incompetent bunch of idiots I’d ever interact with. Now, I pretty much hate dealing with any customer service department. American Express Corporate Card Services is especially clueless.

    It’s maddening when you feel like your tax dollars are wasted on keeping lazy, apathetic folks employed. However, I’m more outraged by waste in bloated, unnecessary defense programs. Oh and let’s not forget about Social Security and Medicare. Compared to those monstrosities, a few slackers at your local state government office seem like small potatoes.

    • @Shawanda, I’m glad you were able to get that off your chest! We could go on and on about the ponzi scheme that is social security. I would love to be in control of my money so I could invest it my way instead of spending the next 40 years hoping I get back even 75% of my ‘investment.’ Now our best option is that 75%, but likely only if we start receiving our benefits later. So frustrating!

  16. I am a government worker for a large public agency in a major city. I work extremely hard. This is not the norm though. Yes, there are politics but man, I have never come across this many slackers in my entire life. It also seems that the higher up in the company you go the more you slack. There are people there with the highest degrees possible that make over 150k and year and do nothing. There are whole teams of people that do nothing. It is the most inefficient system I have ever seen in my life. Talk about frustrating………. All I can say is that I work with a bunch of losers.

  17. There is such a lack of accountability in the Government. As most people know, waste starts at the top. If management would stop promoting incompetent people, then you would have a culture of accountability. While this behavior is epidemic in the government, there are so many tools in place to make employees accountable, but they are never or rarely used.

  18. I know someone who works for the City. She is lazy and would never survive in private practice. The funny thing is she always complains about her job, but she never has to work late, can talk on the phone whenever she wants and often misses work. She’d be fired immediately if she worked for a corporation instead of the government.

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