Not Bad for Government Work
What's the stereotype of a government job? It's a position that doesn't pay well but has an important benefit: Once hired, it's near impossible to be fired. Turns out, half of that stereotype (near impossible to be fired) is true, at least in Houston.
The city of Houston has about 20,000 workers who've been on the job for at least a year and are, therefore, past their probationary periods. How many of these workers were fired last year for attendance, attitude or just plain incompetence? Amazingly, just 84, according to the Houston Chronicle, which combed the city's civil service records. And of the 84, only 19 were fired for poor job performance (26 were fired for behavior problems, 20 for not showing up for work and 19 for drug-test violations).
People who deal with human resource issues in the private sector are amazed. "That's phenomenal," said one labor lawyer. "They either have an amazingly well-performing work force, or they're not rooting out poor performers." Almost certainly, it's the latter. Take the case of the woman who spent 12 years on the city's payroll, mostly as a 911 operator. Over the years, she amassed 10 written reprimands and 55 days of unpaid suspensions for a laundry-list of infractions (not showing up for work, sleeping on the job, lying to supervisors, insubordination, etc.). Surely she was fired, right? Nope. The cops transferred her to a job in the mayor's office, where she answered citizen complaints. Only then was she fired for failing to meet "even the minimum threshold proficiency necessary to work unsupervised at her job." Keep in mind: This was after 12 years of employment.
The new mayor, Bill White, admits there's a problem with a system where employees "can feel their jobs are secure regardless of their performance, except at the extreme."
Footnote: So why aren't more fired for incompetence? It's easier to palm off incompetents on another department than to go through the hassles of civil service reviews. Also, says the Chronicle, in such a second-guessing environment "many managers may be afraid of claims of harassment or discrimination." Posted 3/1/2004
Copyright ©1998-2018 Civic Strategies, Inc.. All Rights Reserved.