Civil servants are not enemies

Published 8:28 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2019

To the editor:

While not a diplomat, I was a career federal civil servant for 36 years.

I was not exposed to the same amount of risk as Ambassador Yovanovitch over her 33-year career, nor did I ascend to the rank that she did. But being someone who is also proud of serving her country, as I listened to her testimony on Friday, I understood her dismay and confusion about why the President of the United States smeared her reputation then removed her from her post without cause, violating every norm she had come to expect under other Republican and Democratic administrations.

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There was so much more that her testimony revealed, but I thought often of what one of my earliest and best government management mentors often told me: “The speed of the boss is the speed of the crew.” If the leader works hard, so will everyone else. If the leader displays high ethical standards, everyone understands what is expected of them.

But when the boss violates ethical norms or treats even one member of the crew unjustly, it sends a message that can quickly undo the ethical underpinnings of any enterprise and severely damage employee morale.

Trump has made career civil servants out to be “enemies of the people.” I worked under three Democratic and three Republican administrations. While as individual citizens, we may not have always agreed with all the policies of the administrations we worked under, my federal coworkers and I faithfully executed the work of the country by carrying out the settled policy of our nation without regard for partisan politics. A “Deep State” among government employees covertly sabotaging a particular party, candidate, or president is a fiction created by a paranoid far right.

I’m glad I retired in 2016, because I can’t imagine how demoralizing it would be to work under the Trump Administration.

Denise M. Murden