Drumming out morale at GSA


The latest revelation of a pointlessly expensive General Services Administration event--this time a $268,732 awards ceremony in Crystal City, Va. in November 2010--brings up questions of federal spending accountability, misplaced objectives, outrage, etc., etc., etc.

I don't disagree with any of that. It is outrageous to think anybody could believe that was a good expenditure of taxpayer dollars. I want to focus on the drumsticks.

Going by video of the event, somebody also thought it would be a good idea to hand out $20,578.24 worth of them to attendees and get them to beat them in time in the air while a drum band exhorted them to "Really listen to each other! Keeping integrity! Accountability! To that bass beat!"

The ceremony, it turns out, wasn't just an insult to the taxpayers who paid for it, but probably to many of the federal employees who attended it, as well.

Forced jollity in the name of building employee morale can be among the most demoralizing things there are--as the professionally clad group of mostly middle-aged GSA employees, listlessly waiving their drumsticks, clearly illustrates. They don't look like they're having fun, and exhortations of "Everybody rumble!" probably made it only that much more depressing.

In addition, the underlying reduction of GSA's mission of taxpayer accountability to the level of a high school pep rally probably didn't do any wonders, either. (Not to mention that the whole idea of an expensive pep rally goes against it.)

I fully agree that it's good to recognize employees for hard work and pause to build team spirit. But it's possible to do so in an informal setting that doesn't reduce employees to parts in a staged spectacle. Were I a GSA employee, I would be glad news of the ceremony has leaked out--in the hope that I wouldn't have to attend another one. - Dave