TCDC Morale Down
Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 12:11PM
Bill Barclay

As is to be expected, there have been recent signs of a severe downturn in morale at TCDC. This is most severely manifested in the departure of some senior and middle level experienced staff. I am not going to speculate on this, or mention names at this stage - it is all a bit raw in there at the moment, and other prominent staff members are clearly looking to their future.

Organisations of this kind are by their very nature cyclical in terms of morale, and it often takes very little to start a rush for the exits - particularly with our ridiculous three year election cycle. In this case, statements made during the course of the election campaign clearly had a demoralising effect throughout the organisation, and no amount of current sweet talk by the Mayor can compensate for threats that he issued during the campaign, and the tissue of lies about the financial state of the Council that obviously resonated with a large proportion of ratepayers.

Even more demoralising are verifiable instances of direct interference with staff while carrying out their legitimate roles in order to achieve outcomes favourable to certain groups or individuals. This is of course quite unacceptable behaviour, particularly in a council context, and may reflect naivety, or worse. I will be watching and listening very carefully to see if there are further instances of this careless lack of adherance to standard lines of communication, and procedures. The layout of our district unfortunately encourages this kind of behaviour, and it is not for the first time, but when it becomes a pattern that costs the Council financially, we must take note.

Our council has rated high on all the recognised  indices by which council performance is judged. Unfortunately, it continues to be harassed in certain quarters that clutch onto a totally unscientific phone survey, a few years old, that rated TCDC as "the worst  Council in the country". It was total nonsense of course, but a considerable number of people who have nothing better to do with their time, combined with disgruntled building tradespeople unhappy with the time taken to issue building permits, continue to rubbish the Council at every opportunity, and influence others. 

This sentiment continues to this day, and Steve Ruru has become the poster boy of their discontent. One may be forgiven for detecting an element of good old fashioned racism in this, but Steve just continues on, and keeps his head down. In the meantime, our esteemed leader appears to have modified his bad-mouthing, and become quite dependent on Steve's advice and support.

Steve may not be the greatest man manager of all time - he did appear to find it hard to discipline people at times, but he knows local government backwards, and in general, he has done a damm good job for this district.

I am often asked my opinion of employees from my experience on the Council. I will not bag a single one, though clearly there was a range of performance levels. What counts is that in my experience, there was a great team spirit, and that in general, every one attempted to do the best they could to ensure that our Council maintained its place on the league tables. 

What many fail to understand is just how sensitive Council employees are to the mood of the actual Council, and its members. Morale can be destroyed in a flash, and I believe that is what has happened. It will take a considerable time to restore, and I suspect that we will see a many more departures momentarily,  with a consequent effect on service levels. It behoves every single Councillor to weigh the effect of every criticism, often issued in the heat of the moment, before they open their mouths.

Saving money by getting rid of people can be self-defeating, and cost a great deal more in the long run than may be saved before the next election. 

 

 

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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