Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The 'Ten Commandments' of public service employees

The origin of this droll list is the civil service ('fonctionne publique') in France, notorious for its deliberate, pig-headed, slow and obdurate way of going about its business, Personally I had relatively few difficulties with these lovely people when I lived there, except on one occasion when I followed the 'duff' advice, against my better instincts, of the lady in charge of our own 'human resouces' department who, lovely lady though she was, adopted the traditional French 'peasant' approach of trying to tell the authorities nothing until forced to do so. Whilst this is a philosophy that I sympathise with strongly, it has in practice to be tempered with accommodating oneself to a[n imperfectly] computerised bureaucracy, which tends to operate like a steam-roller - very slow, but certain; the little 'spat' I had involved a television licence for a television imported from abroad which was incapable of receiving television broadcasts in France. Anyway, on.

So for a laugh, or to console for the struggle of dealing with these people, the '10 Commandments of public service' in France are: (see original version in French here - I have substituted 'jobsworth' and 'work' for 'functionary' and 'function' because these sound a little more natural in English)
1. The jobsworth works, he does not think.
2. The jobsworth who thinks does not work.
3. When he works, which is rare, it is at a slow and regular rhythm.
4. One must never disturb a jobsworth who is reading his newspaper, for he is already incapable of absorbing what he is reading!
5. The jobsworth sleeps during daylight hours and one must not waken him brusquely;
6. One must never contradict a jobsworth, because this affects his gastric juices and renders him, if such is possible, twice as awkward.
7. One must not forget that the jobsworth is a man, not an animal. However, if he were an animal, he would already have been eaten by members of his species.
8. Do not think that the jobsworth who looks at you with a moronic expression does so to put you out (discountenance you), it is his normal expression.
9. The 'break' is sacred for the jobsworth. It is the period when he solves the most urgent matters in a minimum of time:
- he goes for a toilet (rest-room) break;
- he may (perhaps) wash his hands;
- he drinks his coffee and eats a snack;
- he flirts unsuccessfully with female jobsworths or others;
- he returns to his place of 'work', dragging his feet.
10. The jobsworth does not calculate his productivity in monetary terms, but in quantity of paperwork generated.

And there's more than a grain of truth in that, wherever civil servants (public service employees) are involved, I think we can all agree!?

There's lots of other interesting information about French civil service levels and salary structures in Thierry's article, which you can read yourself if you want to; obviously it is in French.

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