The Key Differences Between Private & Public Sector Work

The Key Differences Between Private & Public Sector Work

The Key Differences Between Private & Public Sector Work

There are so many aspects that make your public service work different from private-sector work. Some differences are obvious. While the most significant are not.

Even if you’ve had experience in both the public and the private-sector, chances are you haven’t fully wrapped your head around THE fundamental difference between the two.

But the differences are crucial to understand.

Why is this important?


  1. Without a thorough awareness of what separates the two types of work, you’ll lack the ability to articulate WHY your organization is the best entity to do the work you do.
  2. When there’s so much talk about turning everything over to the private-sector, you need to understand when this does and does NOT make sense.
  3. More importantly, you need to get the public you serve — as well as political appointees — to come to that same conclusion.

Otherwise, 5-10 years from now, they’ll just reinvent you all over again… Meanwhile, your work and its solutions sit on a shelf, gathering dust

Get Off On The Right Foot

This year, we’re making sure your year is off to a good start, by taking a close look at the critical differences between your public-sector work and the exact same technical work in the private-sector.

  1. Two differences have to do with accountability and choices.

When you’re working for a corporation, stockholders can sell their shares if they conclude you’re management methods don’t align with their values and perceptions.

Not so in the public-sector.There, the public is stuck with you!To add salt to the wound, the funding comes from taxpayers’ dollars.  So not only can’t they sell their share of the “company,” they are forced to keep paying for your work.

  1. Public professionals don’t have it easy either! 

The edge isn’t just felt by the public, particularly when it comes to accountability…

Because in the private-sector, you only need to please the owner, or the board.Whereas you have the difficult task of pleasing a diverse and diametrically different public, that is almost guaranteed NOT to agree.

And while these are fundamental to the differences between public and private work, there is a difference even bigger than these…!

Any guess what it is?!?

Here’s where you can find out. Click to get access to our Consent-Building Library.

How You React to a Decision Making Mistake is the Real Mistake

How You React to a Decision Making Mistake is the Real Mistake

You know stuff happens. 

Even when your team does all it can to avoid screw-ups and mistakes.

The thing is — mistakes aren’t what will land you (and your credibility) in trouble with your public… It’s the knee-jerk reaction we all have to them that will actually make matters worse. 

Here are 3 tips to help your team handle inevitable mistakes.

1. It’s human nature to try to justify (even to ourselves) why the mistake happened, whose fault it is, why it wasn’t that big of a mistake (if one at all)…

How You React to a Mistake <br>is the Real Mistake

This is the real mistake.

Of course you’ve got to be careful in how you go public with acknowledging any screw-up, miscalculation, poor analysis, or serious error.  But giving in to the reflex to be overly-protective or defensive is guaranteed to make matters worse

So, rather than being “careful” in how you go public with a mistake, the better advice is to be “thoughtful” and not cave to human nature when you deal with your team’s mistakes.

We wish we could prevent you from dealing with any mistakes, but that simply isn’t possible, nor is it necessary. 

However, we’ll help you prevent those mistakes from damaging the public’s trust in you — and help you shape them into opportunities to deepen your credibility, even with the most cynical public.

2. Public Official? Don’t Act Like a Private Firm. Except When…

Even when you try you HARDEST to avoid mistakes…Embarrassing things still manage to happen. Even to the best teams.

Mistakes don’t discriminate, do they? They happen in public-sector, as well as private-sector organizations.

The question for you is:

How should folks like you, in the public-sector, handle mistakes?  Especially BIG ones… that your team caused?

When businesses mess up big-time, they hire a big name Public Relations firm.
These firms specialize in salvaging the company’s name, or saving the brand in face of the screw-up.

But what can you do when you work in the public-sector?
One of the few areas where our advice to public officials is similar to that of private-sector “crisis-communications PR experts”: Get the information out!
Don’t sit on it… Don’t DRIBBLE it out. Your team has to get the word out about your mistake immediately.

Since so little is shared between the private and public domains, we felt it was worth sharing this particular piece of parallel advice with you.

3. Hiring a PR Firm Can Backfire for Public Organizations

How You React to a Mistake <br>is the Real Mistake

You know what happens when a big corporation messes up. They hire one of the few Madison-Avenue PR firms with a reputation for knowing how to help clients who have been caught with their pants down.

Public agencies can’t really do that!

The trouble is, while the public doesn’t protest when a private-sector organization hires a spin-doctor (with the clear and obvious intention of “spinning” the public, saving face, and their image)…

That same public will NOT put up with a public agency doing the same thing.

No fair!

Double standard alert!

Even so, we have to admit that even we, as a citizens, don’t really want our government to spend our tax money to hire a “spin-doctor” to “spin” us.

Do you?

Yet mistakes happen, and your team needs to deal with them.

So how can you save your credibility with your public, when hiring a PR firm will only create more animosity and cynicism?

Is it a crazy “Catch-22” situation? What’s the best way to deal with it?

We explain the double-standard in more detail, including what you can do about your team’s mistakes in this month’s webinar.

Mishandle Human Conflict and Your Technical Consent Building Work Goes Down the Drain!

Mishandle Human Conflict and Your Technical Consent Building Work Goes Down the Drain!

As a Subject Matter Expert, you’re prepared to deal with all sorts of technical problems. But are you equipped to deal with the human conflict integral to public-sector work?

Let’s take a look and dig a little deeper by focusing on four key points.

1. Even if your role was said to be of a purely technical nature….

The truth is your work surfaces deep divisions among the public.

That’s because group decision-making is complicated by the various values people hold. The more your projects provoke people’s values, the more conflict you’ll encounter.

If you don’t handle that conflict well — even your best technical work will go down the drain!

2. The most precise data, and stringent science cannot survive human conflict….

Mishandle Human Conflict and Your Technical Work Goes Down the Drain!


…Unless it is put into the context of values.

You see, we all have different values — including likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, fears, etc…

As we know from holiday get-togethers and reunions, even members of a close-knit family differ.

So how are you supposed to make a proposal, that elicits deep divisions among the public, survive the decision-making process?

You find common ground in people’s Higher Values.

3. Many public professionals mistakenly water-down their technical work so that it’s more palatable to the general public — and doesn’t ignite conflict.

The problem is — watered down technical work makes matters worse.

Because now the technical work is less rigorous, less responsible, and less effective — while the conflict has been masked at best.

4. Your work is meant to solve specific problems.

Don’t make the mistake of watering-down those solutions! And don’t shrink from inherent conflict!

You can be both responsible to the mission you were given — to solve significant problems, and take advantage of important opportunities — AND be responsive to that diverse, diametrically opposed public.

It is possible!

Through the Systematic Development of Informed Consent, you CAN be technically rigorous, and resolve conflict by appealing to people’s Higher Values.

That means, you have to go deeper than the surface issues.

You have to get to the heart of your mission and your role in the public sector.

Learn How to Get your Opponents’ Informed Consent in one of our few In-Person Courses



How You React to a Decision Making Mistake is the Real Mistake

5 Ways to Gain, Nurture, and Protect Your Credibility with the Public

Public’s Trust is a Must

It’s hard enough to get your technical work done within budget and time constrictions.

It’s nearly impossible if you lack credibility with your public.

Even a private entity, like a utility, with a pretty obvious mission and type of service — will find it challenging to get much done without resistance if it doesn’t have the public’s trust.

Those fortunate enough to have credibility with the public can’t rest on that long as it’s far easier to lose, than to regain.

And the way to gain it, is anything but intuitive…

Polished has a Dark Side

As professionals, you want the public to feel at ease given your level of expertise and knowledge.

So it’s natural (and easy) to create polished looking handouts, flyers, and websites as a reflection of your team’s competence.

The problem is, you might unwittingly be also sending the message that you’re further along in your plans and decision-making process than you actually are.

When you claim “We’re just beginning to look into the issue of X, Y, Z…” the public finds that counter-intuitive considering how finished your materials appear to be.

If you’re really in the preliminary stages of a project, have your slides, handouts, and delivery of information reflect that.

Use like butcher paper and markers to outline information and simultaneously communicate — you really are in the “head-scratching” stage!

If you haven’t even settled on the project’s name — show those nominated and what, if anything, has already been ruled out.

Otherwise, you show up at a meeting asking for “input” and the public immediately senses you’re further along than you are because of the mediums through which you’re sharing information.

Find a way to make the medium communicate where in the process you are to help bolster your credibility.

Your Grandmother isn’t Fooled

You’re not fooling anyone. Not even Grandma.

You know it, we know it — no one is perfect. Not even your highly capable, dedicated, and talented team.

So why give signals otherwise?

Not only are you not fooling anyone. You’re making the public more cynical and skeptical about your sense of reality if you don’t openly admit to your team’s mistakes, gaffes, and mismanagement.

No one said this one is easy. But it is critical.

Without this level of humility and honesty, your credibility with the public will never be cultivated.

It’s Not All Roses

It’s tempting to get so focused on the benefits of the project at hand that you fail to get the public to appreciate — there will be drawbacks.

Drawbacks aren’t a sign of poor technical work, they’re a reality when you’re addressing serious and complex community problems.

Yes, share the project’s PROs — but only after you’ve really underlined the CONs. Otherwise, your credibility is in jeopardy as it appears you’re blind to these negative impacts.

Worse yet — you’ll seem oblivious about those who will feel them the most.

Explain that even given the negative impacts — and who exactly will feel them the most — this is STILL the right way to proceed.

(We know this is no tall order! But it is achievable as it’s at the heart of our whole Consent-Building methodology.)

The Short Cut to Credibility

Nurturing and protecting your credibility isn’t easy or even natural. If it were, everyone who deserves it would have it.

Even putting these three practices to work for your team will likely take some effort and won’t feel natural.

And that’s what developing credibility really takes — guts.

It’ll take the guts to go against your own reflexes, your team’s, your boss’, and your organization’s entrenched practices.

If being like nearly everyone else — frustrated, ineffective, distrusted — is your goal. Then you’re reading the wrong blog. Go back to the uphill battle that never ends of doing “business as usual.”

But if you want to have your public’s respect, trust, and credibility — then having the guts to follow these and our overall Consent-Building methodology will land you in a whole new paradigm.

We have case-study after case-study to back up these points on credibility (and many more) from the nearly 40,000 public professionals like you we’ve trained.

Gimmicks won’t gain you an ounce of credibility. Even the best PR eventually backfires.

With Consent-Building there’s NO gimmicks, NO trickery, NO spin. Just genuine honesty, humility, and dedication to your mission.

Upcoming training: Our “SDIC” Consent-Building training helps technical subject-matter experts (responsible for tackling difficult problems) get their proposals IMPLEMENTED … in what is – after all – a POLITICAL decision-making process!

That’s how we make you and your agency more effective: Helping you accomplish your mission by developing the Informed Consent of your fiercest opponents.

Sign up for SDIC Monterey today!


How You React to a Decision Making Mistake is the Real Mistake

Public Sector Officials: How To Combat Online Negativity and Social Media Trolls

Being attacked is never easy… For many public-sector professionals, it never stops either.

Some members of the public act like making negative comments and online attacks on public officials is a sport.

And as anti-government attitudes heat up, so do the hateful social media posts toward public professionals. So how are you supposed to respond? Here are a couple of tips.

(Note, for our full Consent Building eBook on the topic, click here)…


1. Leverage Negative Comments to Better Inform Your Opponents

Start by assuming the inflammatory or hateful comments have been made by an actual person, with legitimate concerns about your agency, and the projects you’re working on.

2. Resist getting emotionally sucked in — publicly or privately.

Think of an attack as a hook dangling online… Don’t bite! Expect what you say privately in response to online attacks to be made public anytime someone Googles your name, agency, or project (including texts, emails, and comments made within the confines of your office space).

Don’t wait too long, but gather your thoughts (and cool) before responding.

3. Never ignore or disregard negative comments.


See each of these as a chance to make progress on the issues being aired, the misunderstandings that linger, and your overall credibility. To the “silent majority” watching from the sidelines, if you don’t respond to attacks you look tone-deaf, and conveniently inclined to only acknowledge the positive, or more tempered comments regarding your work.

People who didn’t necessarily question your work or motives,start to wonder if you’re online presence is purely self-serving. Responding only to the to level-headed and complimentary comments actually creates cynicism where it didn’t necessarily exist before.

Even though it’s natural to want to ignore the negative and most extreme comments, doing so will actually hurt your credibility among the broader community.

4. Establish the ground rules ahead of time by creating sensible Terms of Use.

Protect your agency and community of online commenters by creating a Terms of Use that is easily located on your website. It must be reasonable in scope, linked to often (when new users join the conversation, or people are on the verge of breaching the terms).

Also, be absolutely sure your team consistently enforced these Terms of use and updates them when necessary (not just when to your advantage). Then, publicly discuss your site’s Terms of Use, why you’ve created them, what they entail, and why it’s reasonable to expect commenters to adhere to the terms.

For more the full list of tips, please download our free Consent-Building eBook on this topic. Click here!