You have to wonder how many little things that would make state work just a little more pleasant never happen because management doesn’t want to risk criticism. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire management expert who we quote in today’s column. Here’s some of what Harvey said that didn’t get into Thursday’s column, followed by a department email that explains the event.
It’s very difficult to explain the indirect benefits of a team building exercise, especially to a lot of people. ... The goal really is to communicate the benefit of what you’re doing ahead of doing it. People are less likely to think something is suspicious. If they’re coming right out, and saying, ‘This is a team-building activity,’ people might still say that’s not the best use of resources, but at least (management) is going through the effort to say its intended to be valuable.
I think you’d get a similar reaction if you compared public perception of government spending to stockholders’ perceptions of private company spending on these types of activities. It’s human nature to be more critical of spending when it’s your money being spent. Stockholders are more likely to question private company spending than the general public or even customers of those companies are because the financial costs to them are much more direct. ...
Taxpayers often have a similar perspective, because for them more spending might mean higher taxes. In both cases the criticism is often short-sighted. Again (that’s) human nature when one’s own money is on the table. Because we all pay taxes, though, there are more eyes on government spending than most companies face, so there’s often more scrutiny.
Wow. That’s not common. You almost never see that in the private sector. ... Now, if the department openly advertises the event as privately funded, they would really help themselves out. It’s hard to get mad about that.
The research pretty consistently shows that an after-the-fact explanation has an uphill battle. Then it sounds like you’re making excuses and trying to cover your own butt.