The 1930s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, made Dale Carnegie famous. To my mind, his better work was a lesser-known, subsequent self-help tome, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. As a person whose level of worry has a certain grandeur, I could relate. Start Living begins with the premise that to overcome worry, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can possibly happen?”
That question usually puts things in perspective.
I mean, if you glance out the window of the airplane carrying you to the in-laws for Thanksgiving, and see an engine fall off the wing or burst into flames, you probably should worry. But if your boss’s boss, who is a political appointee, will switch from one appointed under the Obama administration to one appointed under President-elect Donald Trump, should you really waste a lot of time worrying?
Our survey of federal employees shows that for most career feds, the change in administration won’t alter whatever plans they had for leaving or staying. That is, few career feds are heading for the doors just because Trump will be president. Naturally, all the politicals will be gone. In fact, a 42-year career lawyer told me the other day, the appointees at his agency were wandering around like zombies last Wednesday morning, many having gone to bed dreaming of new and plummier spots in a Clinton administration. Instead, they woke up to Trump.
Don’t feel sorry for them. They knew what they were getting into when they took appointed jobs in the administration. The worst that could possibly happen will. They’ll leave and find fat jobs in the private sector.
Career people do voice a couple of reasonable worries. One, that Trump might conspire with Congress to cut benefits by having employees contribute a higher percentage of their salaries to their health insurance and federal retirement plans. Two, that Trump will go ahead with a promise to reduce the federal workforce by attrition.
Luckily, most of you maintain a healthy level-headedness. Our survey received more than 3,000 responses. A few people vow to never work for the Trump administration, or to skedaddle at the nearest opportunity. The bulk of respondents, 64 percent, say the change in administration will have no impact on their plans for staying or leaving.
Between the protests and some of the hysterical editorial headlines — one declares the Trump administration “already a fiasco” — you’d think the country elected Topo Gigio for president. Even if it had, career people know administrations come and go. In their minds, they work for the government as public servants. In some ways, the civil service, regulated and protected as it is under Title V, exerts a dampening on the excesses of parties in power. But don’t be passive-aggressive. Speak up if you think you’re being told to do something wrong.
But for gosh sakes, if you’re worried, listen to the advice Trump gave some of the protesters: Stop it!