Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house

Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year “ousted,” I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called “excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars.”

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation’s economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate “muffin mini-scandal” as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events?

1) Hubris–Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect–Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided–Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident–At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn’t, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above–Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that “G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky.

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections.

That’s why it’s never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference “Why us? Because we’re the expert shoppers. We’re the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you’re making purchases, and there’s no room for error…”

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it’s good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far.

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us.

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.

(Source Photo: here)

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