Wednesday 25 April 2018

'Scruffy' civil servants create a bad impression

An internal report on the DSP highlighted concerns over the appearance of some staff
An internal report on the DSP highlighted concerns over the appearance of some staff

Gordon Deegan

Workers at the Government's biggest department have complained that some of their colleagues look "scruffy" and the lack of an appropriate dress code creates an unprofessional image.

Concerns over the appearance of some staff at the Department of Social Protection (DSP) is contained in an internal report on transforming the culture of the 7,000-strong workforce.

It also found an apparent reluctance to tackle under- performance in a consistent or meaningful way.

Axion Consulting Partner, who produced the report on the department's culture and values, said: "Anecdotal evidence also seems to suggest that 'problem members of staff' are moved from one area to another to minimise their impact and share the burden, rather than underlying issues being addressed directly."

The consultants, who held workshops with staff and carried out online surveys, said: "If true, an absence of a culture of accountability risks increasing the levels of apathy among the DSP workforce."

They also interviewed key figures in several other departments and Revenue to capture their perspective on the DSP and reported that one of the recurring themes to emerge was that "some concerns were raised that DSP operations might be at breaking point".

The report also stated: "Many staff suggest that there is a general absence of personal accountability at DSP.

"This is seen in the lack of consequence for either good or poor performance. There appears little scope to reward good performance, while there is also little evidence of individual managers providing personal recognition and feedback to staff and teams for the good things they achieve.

"It is suggested by some staff that the most damaging aspect of the lack of accountability is that staff who are performing well are left frustrated that colleagues who choose to 'coast' are never meaningfully challenged.

Vague

"Managers in turn are increasingly frustrated,as they have little authority to deal with poor performance themselves without having to call on centralised personnel support."

As a result, the consultants have recommended that the DSP addresses under-performance.

The report also found that a staff dress code "merits investigation" as there is only a "vague" code in the department and many staff are concerned this creates "an unprofessional image".

It said some staff describe their colleagues' appearance as "scruffy" and questioned the impact this has on their "personal sense of professionalism".

The report noted that "according to many members of staff, there is a real absence of fun and social interaction in the workplace".

Irish Independent

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