My good friend Stephen Stockwell asks whether, after a week of reports that our new Prime Minister is driving his public servants too hard, we could call Rudd the Australian Federal Government’s answer to Jason Calacanis? Perhaps he’s onto something.
In The Age today, author and lawyer Dr Mirko Bagaric reckons the ultimate test of character is when a person has unchecked power. “That is why at work you can get a pretty good gauge of the character of your bosses but not your underlings,” he says. “They are too busy being nice to you to try to get ahead.”
So what does Bagaric make of the many, many reports of public servants complaining that Rudd has turned their lives into a “nightmare” through overwork? Bagaric says, “Rudd has spectacularly failed the exploitation test.”
In a well-argued essay, Bagaric writes:
One trait is even more offensive than using others: hypocrisy. Trying to get credit for what you are the opposite of, is an egregious insult to fundamental tenets of natural justice.
Before the last election, Rudd said he empathised with the plight of time-pressed working families and that he recognised the need to restore “fairness into the workplace”. The 60,000 people who make up the federal public service are every bit as entitled to be treated with respect as the rest of the community.
Yes, helping the PM run the country is an important job, but we are not in a war zone. There is no demonstrated need for people to work manic hours, no major crisis; and the PM’s ideas and effectiveness deficits don’t constitute a catalyst for anyone else grinding themselves into the Canberra dirt.
So, what should the PM expect of his troops? He should be telling them exactly what social scientists have known for decades about the connection between employment and leading a fulfilled life. Work is important to leading a fulfilling life, but rarely should you let it define you (unless you are genuinely passionate about it), and it certainly should never defeat you.
Moreover, more is often less. There are only so many productive hours (about eight) that one can consistently complete each day. Anything beyond that is just about presenteeism — looking to do something instead of actually doing it. It has nothing to do with effectiveness.
Spending time reflecting, contemplating, revisiting decisions, redrafting, consulting with others is usually dead time. There’s a lot of truth in the observation of former Nine chief executive Sam Chisholm that “losers have meetings, winners party”.
I’ve been in my own self-induced schedule crunch this week, and have yet to reflect on Rudd’s first six months in office. But as I emerge and see what others have been writing, I’m not impressed. Just don’t get me started on the Bil Henson saga!