Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Civil Servants get Highest Raise Ever!

My parents are richer now thanks to our level-headed, quiet and unassuming but nevertheless charming Prime Minister. I have always had great respect for the leader of our country – I’ve only known 2 Malaysian Prime Ministers in my lifetime (ever since I’ve been old enough to remember) and both of them have had different personalities, characters and strengths. In my opinion, our former PM is like fire – passionate, hot and frenzied while our current PM is like water – quiet, mysterious and slowly carving his path between rocks.

So, anyway, that was a little digression. So my parents are now richer thanks to the increase in civil servant salaries and pensions. Dad no longer works but mum does, as a Commissioner for Oaths. Once in a while, I do chastise her about smiling more to the people who walk through her door. She has a pretty kind heart as it is but I think I have a softer one and when she gets frustrated or upset with some of her customers, I tend to remind her that these are people who come to you because they need your help, they need your service and they need your expertise. …plus they are willing to pay for it!

I can’t quite say the same thing to Civil Servants nationwide, in the sense that the customers who come to them don’t directly pay them at every touch point of service, however, they are ‘servants’ of the country as it is the country who pays them their monthly wages. People usually think they’ve got it good when they get a position with the government; they seldom fail to realise that it is usually a thankless job that still requires you to give your best and smile at the same time! In the olden days, my grandfather would have said, it is an Honourable Job, you do lots, get paid little, endure spitting and still you get the job done.

When you are in a service industry (regardless governmental, NGO or corporate), it is your utmost responsibility to provide the most efficient service you can in the best manner possible. Now that usually encompasses the following criteria:

Prompt and efficient service/advice

What happens when the civil servant/service provider is caught in a traffic jam to work and ends up clocking in late? What happens when a customer gets upset and screams at them? What happens if their child fell ill this morning? What happens if they had a big ole drawn out fight with their spouse? What happens if they didn’t strike the lottery?

Prompt and efficient service/advice
- I’m hungry, I want a coffee, I’m having a coffee.
- Without me, they can’t do anything, let them wait.
- All my life I’ve never had to move faster than this, why should I change now?
- Nobody pays me enough to go through all the work I have to go through
- The bugger on the street honked at me this morning, therefore do unto others what others have done unto me!
- They pay me to do the job, not to mind my p’s and q’s.
- We’re all here to work only, I don’t know you and I don’t like your face.
- I only smile at people I know.
- What can a smile do? Don’t waste my time and work my facial muscles even more!
- They don’t pay me enough to work, now you want me to SMILE????
- It’s raining, I’d rather be in bed.
- My child is sick, my problems are bigger than yours, I don’t care about you wanting this piece of work NOW!
- I keep my enthusiasm for makan times and clock out times only.
- You don’t pay my salary, I don’t have to put on a show for you!
- I do the best I can, what else do you want from me?
- Nobody pays me enough to care so much.
- My boss will take responsibility for my work. That’s what he’s there for!

So, it’s usually about the money. I’m not one to only point fingers at our civil servants. If the corporate world also presents customer service agents who are atrocious albeit making more money (or so believed), and receiving more training, then it MUST be justified for our civil servants to provide us with the shoddy service we sometimes receive.

I’ve had customer service agents who speak through the phone as if they have not yet woken up. I have spoken to others who are unaware that they are being paid to represent an organisation, sometimes an international one at that and there are those whose only purpose in life is to talk to me on the phone and make me wish I could squeeze the life out of them so that God doesn’t have to waste a brain on a non-entity as that!

It’s all well and good when there are numerous newspaper reports and interviews and public comments reminding the civil servants to work harder, not take bribes and to realise that they no longer have to behave ungraciously to the public because they ARE getting their higher salaries, but it’s no use. For those who have behaved in this manner in the past, it is because their mindset and their work ethic dictates that they do. As such, short of a brainwashing, nothing is going to change their actions. Not money; but….hmmmm….. perhaps compliments….(never underestimate the power of a good word) and then an elimination of those back-biters who will call them names for trying.

There are of course, those who work very hard and smile in spite of problems but those are few and far between. I count myself very lucky if I happen to meet on of those – can buy Lottery! Then I can move to an island where I wouldn’t have to smile too.

But let’s give this the benefit of the doubt, let’s cross our fingers and pray that more money means the public get what they want = better service, more graciousness, more courtesy and more expertise. For a simple example, just look at Astro – for higher subscription fees, you get more and more channels – oh, but I did just read a ‘Letter to the Editor’ that vehemently states that the writer ‘didn’t ask for the channels, so why make me pay more for them???!!!’ I hope more money doesn’t just translate into more expensive coffee at coffee breaks!

Finally, I would also like to observe that in all the war movies I’ve seen, army men, soldiers, army pilots, national sercurity/servicemen, all always work for the country and die for the country. It is a matter of honour to serve the country. I’ve never heard any of them say, "I’ll defend this country to my bank account in Switzerland, so help me God!"