I was going through various articles and was intrigued by a certain topic on The Ladders. It was a discussion on what professions have the most psychopaths and, lo and behold, Civil Servant showed up as number 10.
Now, I’m not too shocked. I’m more surprised it’s so low on the list. What I’ve seen over the years in strange behavior has had me toss back another beer before bed at times to help me sleep… From people bathing in the communal restrooms’ sink, the strange eating behaviors, physical threats when one voices an opposing opinion on anything. I had a friend who had a stack of parts drawers on his bench and labeled one drawer “mold and spores”. He had a colony that he started from a piece of bread that eventually grew out of the drawer and over the top and into other drawers. Another employee drew cartoon pictures, like stick figures, in various (scary) configurations. I had to physically remove them myself – others were afraid to confront him on them. I told my boss that if I was found slumped over the desk in a pool of blood one day, there would be a slew of suspects and the investigators would have trouble identifying the actual perpetrator due to the number of questionable individuals that knowingly or unknowingly committed the deed. I say unknowingly because they may think this was just another day at the office…
There’s a place for him on the outside too…
But, all of that aside, there is something a bit different when it comes to career civil servants. It’s true, you have the survivors who somehow got in and keep a low profile through their career. And others that fit the descriptions above. But for the most part, the ones who come in to civil service – and stick around awhile – have an altruistic component deep within.
Psychopathy, by definition has references to lacking conscience and empathy. You don’t normally find that in civil service, although it may be hard to tell in some instances.
Even beyond what is seen by the public. Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians normally interface with the public and you would expect empathy and good conscience (even though Police Officers separately made the list at number 7).
But there are many behind-the-scenes employees who know the nature of the work they support and importance of it. I think of the auto mechanics who service the ladders and engines of the FDNY. They know that firefighter’s lives will be relying on the proper performance of that apparatus. The PD radio mechanic working on the portable radio (walkie-talkie) knows the police officer may need it to call for help so the service is done with detail and precision. The timekeeping and payroll staff that has to know the intricacies of the union contracts, pay codes, and hourly rates. If the checks stop coming, the civil servants will stop coming. No matter how ‘altruistic’ one is.
So, civil servants as psychopaths? It may be hard to tell at times – and there are probably a few who meet the definition. But when push comes to shove, it’s good to know that good, reliable, and dedicated teams of individuals are keeping things running because they know how important their job is – to both the public and the other civil servants they serve.