Is it Time to Leave Government?

The interesting times we are experiencing have a lot of people wondering if now is a good time to get out of government and do something else. In the past when most federal workers were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System and its “golden handcuffs” that would not be a reasonable thing to ask. Now, with the Federal Employees Retirement System in place for more than 32 years, most federal employees have a mobile Thrift Savings Plan that they can take with them to a new employer in the private sector. The low unemployment rate is making this more of an applicant’s job market, so that just adds to the temptation to try something different.

So is this the time to leave government? The answer depends on many things. If you are dissatisfied with where you are working, what is the reason? Is the problem with a boss or bosses? Are you tired of federal employees being used as political pawns? Do you not like the Administration’s way of running your agency? Is some interesting opportunity outside of the federal government tempting you? Are you just fed up with government rules? Is it something else?

Let’s look at a few of those. If you are looking at an opportunity outside of government, ask a lot of questions before you make a move. The longer you have been in government, the more likely it is that you will have to make a lot of adjustments when you move to the private sector. Some of those adjustments will be for the better, some not so much. If you are early in your career, you may find the adjustment easier. When you decide to leave government for a private sector job, it is important to get good advice from people you know and trust. Keep in mind that, unlike federal pay, most companies will negotiate you pay. It is not a “take it or leave it” proposition like it generally is in government. That means your negotiating skills could result in tens of thousands of dollars more if you negotiate well, or less if you do not. Also consider what you will be doing. Some companies have an interesting mix of work and can offer you variety that you might not get in government. Others are very narrowly focused and you might find yourself doing the same work for many years. After years in government and in the private sector, I cannot say one is always better than the other. How you fit will be based on your skills, your personality, the company or agency where you work, and many other factors. If you do decide to make the move, do it because you are going to something you want and not because you want to get away from something.

Getting away from something often means a boss. Surveys consistently show that a bad boss is among the top reasons for leaving an employer. “You go to work for an agency/company and leave a boss” is a cliché because it is true. That means leaving your job because you want to get away from a boss is often a bad move. How do you know that the new boss will be better? Even if the new boss is better, how long will s/he stay in place? What happens if the next boss is worse than the one you have now? My advice for many years has been to not let a bad boss drive you away. There may be some rare circumstances where your boss is so extraordinarily bad that getting out makes sense, but more often than not it is a bad move. In my professional life I have made three moves where my boss was a factor. In each case, I waited until I found another opportunity that was a good career move. I always encourage folks who are asking for advice to do the same thing. If you want to make a move because of a bad boss – make a move that will be good for you.

I have heard from some folks that they are unhappy with the current Administration’s approach to running their agency. They say their political leadership is at odds with the reasons their agencies exist, and they do not agree with the direction of the agency. While such complaints may have increased with the current Administration, they are not unique to this President. Sometimes the complaint is about conflict over the mission of the agency. Sometimes it is conflict over the direction of specific programs. When the problem is that you do not like what your political leaders are doing, you have several options. You can leave, stay and try to influence their approach, bail out, or stay around to do what you can to minimize what you perceive as damage. More often than not, if you believe this or any Administration is at odds with the reason your agency exists, bailing put is probably not the right answer. Think about it. You love the agency’s mission, don’t want to see it harmed, so you leave? What does that do to preserve the agency mission? How does it help the people who are not in a position to leave? What message does it send about how much you care about the mission? If you truly believe in the mission of your agency and do not like the direction it is heading, the best option may be to stay there to do what you can to influence where the agency is going.

Whatever your reason for considering leaving government, make a decision based on where you want to be rather than where you are, and only after learning all you can about where you plan to go. When I hear from people who made bad career moves, they usually left for the wrong reason or did not do their due diligence before making a move. If you do not like where you are, always remember that an ill-informed move could land you somewhere that is worse than where you are now.



And So It Began

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”