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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…!
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)…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more the full list of tips, please download our free Consent-Building eBook on this topic. Click here!
What’s become known as the “Aarhus Model” is an interesting take on developing trust with extremists — even those who are tempted to flee to Syria and support ISIS.
It touches on the underpinnings of what we discussed in this month’s Consent-Building Clinic #83, and what we’ve taught in our CPO-2 course that focuses on dealing with extremists.
That is, it’s not enough to say you care — you have to demonstrate it.
Look into the work of a handful of detectives in the Danish town of Aarhus, who rather than vilify teenagers tempted to join ISIS fighters in Syria, asked them to meet for coffee and then actually listened to how they became so disaffected with their homeland.
For many, if not most of those burgeoning terrorists, being heard caused them to finally believe what the officials and others were saying: they DID care about these youths and their frustrations.
Moreover, the police detectives acknowledged and validated the source of the teenagers’ feelings.
They HAD been treated unfairly, and while that was true they need not abandon Denmark and become radicalized to even the score.
Also laid out before them was that if they continued down the path of terrorism offered by ISIS, these teenagers could expect a grim future . . .
Things in Burns, Oregon might get have officially turned ugly.
And while the folks at the wildlife refuge in Oregon aren’t your average opponents, their stance isn’t legitimate, there is an element of their stance that no public official should ignore…
Unfortunately, NO ONE is immune from anti-government attitudes.
(Ironically, especially in a democracy… But we’ll cover that topic on March 8th in Clinic #78.)
Because this attitude is something you either ARE dealing with or likely WILL be confronted with, we’ve adopted “Anti-Government” as our theme for all of our monthly Consent-Building Clinics in 2016.
In a self-governing society, it’s THE PUBLIC who decides — via our rules based decision-making process — what government institutions it wants to create and maintain.
If you encounter stakeholders who perceive an “Us vs. Them” relationship between the (them) public and (you) the government . . . something’s gone wrong.
Chances are it’s simply a misunderstanding . . . a misperception.
Because even “simple” misperceptions can be challenging to correct, don’t expect that lecturing these folks is going to change their view of the world.
Your stakeholders need to discover . . . they need to see — with their own eyes — and conclude on their own terms that it’s ultimately THEY, the people (i.e. all of us) who make all the decisions.
It’s WE, the people, who created your agency and it’s mission.
It’s critical that your stakeholders realize this paradigm-changing insight.
But how do you stimulate you stakeholders to have such a critical insight?
While there’s no quick-fix, there IS much you can do.
The first of which begins by answering 6 Questions
In addition to the recording of this webinar, we’ve created a follow-up video with 6 questions to help you make real headway in preventing such attitudes from being aimed at you and your organization.
Starting with the basics in this recorded webinar, we delve into every angle of WHY Anti-Government sentiments are ratcheting up all across the country, and WHAT you can do to diffuse them, and even better yet — PREVENT them in the first place — from impeding your ability to accomplish your mission.
In this session, we’ll cover something so SIMPLE and yet POWERFUL . . .
6 Points We Cover
1. How you DEFINE “public” and “stakeholder” plays a central role in anti-government attitudes towards you and your agency.
2. Whom should you INCLUDE and EXCLUDE in your definition?
3. Should your definition of your “public” and related “stakeholders” SHIFT from project to project?
4. How should you handle people who THINK they are affected?
5. What’s the appropriate ROLE of number of constituents, majority vs. minority opinions, and representativeness?
6. How to identify WHICH of the 4 Fundamental Points your team is failing to address.
Don’t be caught off guard by anti-government attitudes that are sweeping the country!
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