The Beatings Will Continue Until The Morale Improves


Last week while at the gym I bumped into a couple of the gym regulars. Both are work-out regulars  are long term City employees and that I have known for several years. I asked: “How is the new City Manager, Jeff Trail, making out, is he making a difference”?

From one City employee;” I’ve never met him” and from the other: “he dropped by our department but I haven’t talked to him”.

Keeping the conversation going I asked; “Has the City ever carried out an City Employee Survey, rating the City of Saint John or City management as an employer”? A shrug from one and a ” maybe 5 years ago, but I wouldn’t have paid any attention”.

Both of these guys are what I would consider “good guys” but both have developed what we might call an “attitude problem”.

Carrying on I asked: “When you first started working for the city did you like your job and were you motivated”? The reply was yes but after a few years you learn: “This is the way things are done so you learn to give up and just do your job and go home”.

I asked do you think there is a “culture” issue at City Hall and if so how do you change the culture, how do you create a better culture?” With that one of the guys told me a story about a GM plant in the US some years ago that had the highest level of absenteeism, the highest level of sickness and the highest level of auto defects. GM was desperate, they had to do something. He told me that GM brought in a Toyota management team but retained all the original auto workers. He told me that within a year the plant had the lowest level of absenteeism, the lowest level of sickness and the lowest level of auto defects. The question then became was the problem at GM the culture and/or management style? ….and if there is a low morale and high employee absenteeism issue with City employees could it be the culture and historic management style?

I took the time to do a search on the GM improvement story to see if it was fact or fiction and this is what I found.

GM and Toyota launched their joint auto plant where GM’s work force had been at its worst. Here’s what happened next. And why.

So as a taxpayer and/or “shareholder” my question for the City Hall, Common Council and City Management becomes: What is the level of City employee job satisfaction, employee morale, the level of employee sickness, employee absenteeism, employee productivity and developing a culture of continuous improvement?

Perhaps it’s time for one of those employee satisfaction surveys? Think about it.