Our Expectations Create Corruption in Government?


Our expectations help create results.  We know this from life. Thus, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that researchers at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have confirmed expectations that people that apply for government jobs are . . . not up to standards.

The study, referenced here, found that college students who cheat are more likely to want government jobs – in India.

Such a criticism is simply not fair, but worth discussing.

In part, this reflects how far our expectations of government have fallen. The original concepts of civil service were given to us by the Chinese approximately 4,500 years ago.  The applicants were rigorously tested and the best were chosen.  The original concept was that these public employees were being trusted with matters of wide public importance and should be the “best.”

We’ve fallen quite some ways from that standard, and now governments select on the basis of such low level standards as . . . well, you can fill in your favorite government selection criteria.

Those criteria were not developed by civil servants alone.  And often not by civil servants at all.  These criteria often include the additional help of politicians and public policy makers.

As an anticorruption matter, expectations create the fabric of reality in an institution and/or government.  If we consistently expect the worst of people – that’s what we’ll see, and may be what we get.

Regarding expectations,  many “corrupt” practices are waived away as a part of the culture.

For example, in many countries people come late to work and meetings.  They justify it by saying “this is (Island Time)/Africa Time/Mexico Time/ etc.)

In direct opposition to this “fact”, its important to observe that there are many institutions in these and other regions that do not follow these generalizations.

But surrounded by these other people and organizations, they are under constant pressure to “fit in” and match the behavior of their fellow government employees.

Corruption in government finds nourishment in such decreased expectations.

And let’s face it, it is often the expectations of the leaders and not the good men and women in the ranks of an organization that create such breeding grounds.

It’s the leaders that inspire people to a common vision of what is possible as well as what is acceptable and unacceptable.

But lets not stop there.

Governments around the world offer many examples of departments and ministries that are ethical, committed and focussed on fulfilling the public trust.

My own observations are that many government leaders are quite committed.  They and their staff work long hours and are focussed on meeting their obligations to fulfill the public’s trust.  The trick is to validate those government leaders and employees.

I encourage you to look for the good examples of government employees and departments, and acknowledge them when you can.  Seek and ye shall find.

Let’s keep their spirits up to help them withstand the undistinguished criticisms heaped at them in the midst of general government criticism.

In particular, lets identify and acknowledge those government leaders closest to the front lines that keep their staff motivated, productive and committed to the public trust.

Brian Pinkowski

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2 thoughts on “Our Expectations Create Corruption in Government?

  1. Dear Mr.Brian,
    Your research and observations had it all. My input is that, let the governments across the world make one year probation for each government employee, another year contract and the third year permanent employment. the forth year promotion etc, to retirement, surely, truth prevails and human color unfolds with time so does corruption.

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