Public or Private Sector Work: The Eternal Question

By Millheim, Dave | Public Management, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Public or Private Sector Work: The Eternal Question


Millheim, Dave, Public Management


As public managers, we have heard the age-old comparisons of working in the public versus the private sector: one side is easier than the other, the private sector pays more money, and the public sector shelters poor performers. These generalizations go on and on like the Energizer Bunny. Most of us would be lying if we said we had never wondered what working on the other side of the employment fence would be like. The attributes and perspectives that local government managers believe to be true of either public or private sector employment can change if a manager does move to the other side of the employment fence. I should know. I made the switch.

This commentary shares perspectives, generalizations, and thoughts on my transition from public sector to private sector employment. I hope my observations can benefit managers who are facing a career-change decision point and are not sure what to expect. For me, this change in perspective was sometimes slow in evolution and sometimes felt like a stinging slap in the face.

I include personal experiences as examples because they seem the best way to make my points. These observations are loosely organized, roughly following the order in which the events occurred, and yet they do not fit neatly into a sequential development of thought because there sometimes was significant overlap in my realizations.

Personal Steps

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and your personal situation. This is a critical first step in your personal study. If you are contemplating a career change to the private sector, ask yourself why. Here are four self-exploring questions that you might ask:

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

What do I like about my current situation?

What do I dislike about it?

Of what I like and dislike, how many of the factors are internal ones that relate to my personal attitude, and how many are external ones beyond my control?

The honest answers to these questions are critical because they provide the bases for evaluating whether or not a career change is worth considering. Managers experience job change, and most change is good and inevitable. It is a mistake to fight changes that should take place as we grow in our life experiences, It is a much larger mistake to force a job change based on faulty premises, reasons, and assumptions.

Beware of pride. If you are in a bad situation, is it one of your own creation, or are "they" really out to get you? Some managers should be fired, and some should never have been hired. My point is that if you are jumping, voluntarily or involuntarily, from job to job every other year, do you honestly know why?

A comment on self-analysis. Do not be so opposed to job change as to miss a good opportunity. None of us is so indispensable to an organization that we cannot be replaced. If you do not believe this, I propose that you are a poor manager for not empowering or training your subordinate employees to stand on their own. Those managers who best succeed in either sector do their homework. This "homework" is different from the self-analysis process I already have described in that it is more focused on the specific change or job opportunity(ies) being considered.

The phase of doing homework on a possible new job should come after the self-analysis phase. I emphasize this point because the man or woman who is smart enough to know that he or she can do the necessary homework and study for a job change, will also know enough to incorporate personal evaluation into the job opportunity assessment. Knowing as much as possible about a job change before undergoing it will prevent serious mistakes.

Sometimes, I have been recruited by a potential future employer without even realizing this fact. Once I had made this realization and started thinking seriously about a job change, though, the homework phase had begun. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Public or Private Sector Work: The Eternal Question
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.