By the time this article goes up, the 2013 government shutdown may be over, or it may still be in effect. No one knows when it will be over except for our elected officials. In the meantime when writing up the piece about the Myth of the Stability of Being a Federal Employee, the idea came to me to capture some of the reactions and sentiments of friends and colleagues in the federal government before and during the shutdown. The following is are samples of quotes and reactions to the shutdown from people in my circle.
“All we can tell you is to watch the news. We don’t know when this will be over,” our supervisors and managers told us leading up the shutdown and then on the day we when we went through our shutdown protocols. We all knew that the government shutdown might be coming months in advance so all of this wasn’t a big surprise, though leaving my workplace that last time not knowing when I would return was a sobering feeling.
“We got reimbursed back in 1995 after the Clinton-Gingrich shutdown, but it’s not guaranteed that we’ll get it this time. It’s actually not looking good,” a seasoned coworker said days before the shutdown with true fear on his face of losing the pay, and with good reason too as our bills would continue rolling in even as our paychecks froze.
Immediately after the shutdown went into effect, many federal employees took it hard. While many were worried about the financial pinch, many workers actually found fulfillment in their work, and were upset that they couldn’t work simply because of lack of agreement by our elected officials. Some even became skeptical about continuing to work for the federal government.
“This sucks,” a coworker text-messaged me the morning of Oct. 2, the day immediately after the start of the shutdown. In later messages, his frustrations continued saying, “I’m going to keep my options open employment-wise. It’s just going to get more difficult in the government; more work, lower pay (furloughs), no promotions, on top of the usual politics.”
“When the government shutdown, I knew that I was just go and spend time at my other jobs,” a friend who has his hand in a number of community service and other projects outside of work peacefully stated. While many federal workers were crushed about not being able to go to work, others saw it as opportunity to invest their time in other projects.
Prior its start, some weren’t worried about it at all. An unconcerned seasoned coworker who was savvy about money and investing smiled and told me told me, “We might get shutdown, but we’ll be back to work eventually. In the meantime, those who have savings will be okay, and those who don’t will scramble to find the money to buy a bag of potato chips. It’ll be okay.”
Some retired federal employees looked at the current situation with fond memories of previous shutdowns, and made observations about the spending habits of and mentalities of the younger generations of federal employees.
“We never worried about the shutdowns. We just relaxed and enjoyed the time off,” a retired federal employee laughingly at an alumni association meeting I’m involved with. “We were a different generation though. We had money saved up and could thus survive. People in the younger generations don’t live like we did and are in real trouble right now. They’re going paycheck to paycheck.”
“I’m filing for unemployment,” a disgusted coworker said walking from the printer the day of the shutdown, when we had to go into the office and officially close down our work stations. He continued, “The director just sent this certificate to all of us. I recommend you print it off and do the same thing.”
About a week later, my unemployment papers were put in the mail as well. Other federal employees congregated around the city to take advantage of the free specials offered by local restaurants. Some went out of town just to get away. We all watched the news everyday wondering when our elected officials would make some sort of agreement and reopen the federal government.