Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh in its first 100 days transferred most of the IAS and IPS officers in the state including chief secretary and director general of police .A new transfer policy is in place and transfer of other services and levels is continuing. But such an exercise may be give a signal that a new government has come in place of the old but hardly any thing else. What is needed is a combination of decisions and an approach which gets the much-abused civil service out of a state of burnout and raises its morale.(I include all rungs and branches (generalist, police as well as technical) of civil servants in this phrase civil services) Without motivation and morale, all decisions of new government will be implemented half-heartedly. In Uttar Pradesh , a majority of civil servants suffers not only from burnout , but also from cynicism , low morale and lack of meaning and pride.
Morale of civil servants is essential for building effective , accountable and inclusive governance institutions .It indicates the health and the capacity of civil services to deliver services and results. Morale is the degree to which civil servants have respect for their own jobs and a commitment to the organization.
Burnout is “ a condition of emotional exhaustion , depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity” (Maslach , Jackson and Leiter ). When employee’s resources fall short of the demands and expectations of leadership , burnout may result. Burnout leads to low morale , reduced quality of service , high rates of illness and absenteeism , indifferent and cold attitude ,a tendency to devalue one’s work(negative self-assessment) , high staff turnover, and low career satisfaction. In India , where unemployment levels are high , public servants do not quit despite low morale , because of the security that a government job offers .
The factors which affect the morale of civil services in India are as below:
In a work culture, steeped in corruption , the stress levels of honest employees are high .They are called upon to exercise inappropriate use of powers , resources and even connive in frauds. .This makes them either corrupt , or if they choose to fight against corruption , they end up in burnout.
If the selection of the administrative leader is not on merit , integrity and professionalism but on the basis of connections and loyalty to political bosses , the administrative leadership becomes weak or absent . Such leaders lack commitment to engage people in organizational improvement efforts. They have little courage to take or recommend action against corrupt or inefficient subordinates. They are unfit to lead.
John Le Carre wrote:” A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world”. When leaders spend more time behind their desk and less time outside connecting with the real people , they display a lack of empathy and a poor understanding of how the government works for the common man .
Sometimes , when the top starts behaving in retaliation , there is a fear all around and a toxic culture prevails throughout the organization .
3.Narrowing decision making powers:
The Rules of Business vest practically all decision making powers in the departmental ministers. Secretaries and Heads of departments and other levels have very little powers to decide
4.Fair and Respectful treatment at work place:
If there is a perception that employees in general do not receive the desirable level of respect from the organization. then , employees also harbour feelings of disrespect for their bosses , though such feelings may be disguised. This results in low morale.
5. Expectation of loyalty to the party in power:
Loyalty to the party in power rather than neutrality is being increasingly demanded by political leadership. This discourages honest public servants who wish to remain neutral and unpoliticised.
6. Criticism of civil servants by political leadership:
Politicians, backed by media , often accuse civil servants(babus) of blocking plans, being overpaid and under worked ,” unhelpful and uncooperative “ “ Red tape “ “indolent pen pushers” are some of the terms used for bureaucracy bashing . This accusatory culture undermines the trust of civil servants in political leadership, demoralizes them and raises doubts about the future of civil service . Further , the efforts of political leadership to” reform” and reorganize the civil service only end up in demoralizing the civil service because such steps are projected as efforts to shake up the self-serving , lazy, apathetic and incompetent bureaucrats .
Blaming civil servants for failures of polticians, as a scape goats, to deflect public criticism from their own inadequate leadership also demoralizes the civil servants. .Civil servants are always an easy targets .
7.Political and bureaucratic turn-over and continuity:
Political leaders have brief tenures , specific political agendas and short term perspectives .The tenure of senior civil servants is also short , often less than a year. These frequent and abrupt changes in political and administrative leadership makes it difficult for civil service to sustain engagement .
8.Accessibility and authenticity of leadership:
Political leadership is generally not accessible even to the senior civil servants. Even when they are available , open-ness and authenticity seem very rare. There are hardly any genuine and credible interactions .This also applies to interaction between senior civil servants and their junior colleagues.
9.Inquiries and disciplinary proceedings :
Often , CBI or vigilance inquiries are instituted against the senior civil servants without proper scrutiny and thought .If this is done against officers who have a reputation for honesty and good conduct , as has happened recently in Coalgate scam , it demoralizes the entire bureaucracy .
10.Recognition and Rewards:
.When recognition/reward /award system is arbitrary and whimsical and awards are handed down to the favourites regardless of merit, it results in only a contempt for the awards . Placement , promotion , rewards and awards should be based on merit , competence , hard work .But instead ,often , they depend on loyalty , yes- man ship , recommendation of parliamentarians and other powerful individuals.
11. Unchallenging Environment:
When there is a lack of leadership and direction , it gives rise to an unchallenging and dull work environment , which in turn offers no opportunities to rise , learn or grow. This in turn leads to low morale.
12. Excessive reliance on consultants:
Sometimes , consultants are appointed at huge expense , to reform a sector .Such consultants may have no knowledge of local background , culture and field conditions , and end up in suggesting remedies which are worse that the disease .
Outsourcing services, running government like a business may also result in poor services and poor morale.
In India , job commitment , professional satisfaction, engagement and ethical conduct in public services is declining. Trust in organization and leadership is also decreasing ,resulting in poor governance. In the long term , this could threaten citizen’s trust in state legitimacy .While we want the best and the brightest youth to join the IAS and other services , our system is actually scaring them away .A major cultural change is required that puts data at the heart of policy making and management practice. Government must change its relationship with citizens so as to address their ever increasing demands. A consistent monitoring of morale of the employees is required to ensure that corrective actions are taken regularly.
(This article was published with some editing changes in the magazine News Times Post , Lucknow , July22,2017 issue.)