We’re all in this together — Renewal Efforts and Good Faith

Before joining the PS, in my last year if university, I was involved with my university’s students’ union. I learned a number of practical skills during that year, especially the importance of good faith — and how much more difficult it can make negotiations. It’s so much easier to stick to a point and push an agenda forward if you assume the people on the other side of the table are evil.

It’s very simple, in any context, to assume that the person who is blocking you from doing something is doing it maliciously — they are preventing you from doing something because they just don’t like you/your group/your concepts. Alternatively, it is blocking your idea because they don’t want to look back, and the assumptions of your idea is that they clearly aren’t performing the right actions.

The problem, of course, is that it’s overly simplistic. When working with the union, it was pretty easy to assume that those in the faculty and/or administration (depending on the issue) are fundamentally just evil/incompetent/mean-spirited. They very rarely are. The issue is that both sides tended to use the same argument: “We’re doing what’s best for the students.”

And they meant it. It was something they genuinely believed.

I think sometimes when we try to push ideas forward, it’s easy to ascribe those who aren’t approving/supporting/etc the role of evil-doers. Rather than engaging in a dialogue with them, we enter into a battle — and those battles can have casualties.

Debate is good, and trying to figure out the best pathway forward requires all of us to recognize that there aren’t, usually, people blocking us for the sake of blocking us, and that our ideas may not be perfect. The PS is a massive machine, and very rarely is the full story accessible to any one person. It’s through engaging in a dialogue that ideas can move forward — hopefully with more support. This, however, requires us to assume good faith on the part of those we work with and who we’re proposing ideas too.

As public servants, we have to remember that we’re all in this together. I like to assume that we’re all here to serve Canadians, and that our ideas work towards enhancing our ability to do so. If we can start our dialogue with each other with that assumption in mind, I think it could enhance the level of conversation that we all experience.


One thought on “We’re all in this together — Renewal Efforts and Good Faith

  1. I love this post. As both a public servant and a student, this resonates with me. My frustration with the student politicians who claim to represent me often results in me dismissing them as incompetent or self-serving, and it’s important for me to catch myself when my thoughts stray in that direction.

    The point is equally true in the context of the Public Service. Separating ourselves into factions and demonizing those whose approach differs from your own is all too easy — human comprehension is partly based on making distinctions and categories — but it does no one’s mission any good.

    Thanks for the reminder that we’re all trying to row in the same direction; what we need is a drumbeat to help us all pull together.

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