Side Views

From personal experience — Greener Pastures

January 04, 2013

JAN 4 — I write today to present a scenario from personal experience which relates to the national brain-drain and low enrolment in the civil service.

I have served in the civil service for three years now, and the reasons why I joined the civil service was because of my mother, who herself served as a teacher for 30 years and convinced me that the civil service was not what most people thought it to be. In fact, it gave her a good career, a good life, a good income and good benefits right up till now in her retirement. The other reason was I wanted a stable job that would allow me a good work-life balance and time for my new family.

So, after graduating in the Dean’s list from a local university and working in the private sector for a while, I applied and subsequently was called to service. Before I started in the civil service, one year after graduation, I took a certification examination which allows me to practise in many foreign countries. But I chose to stay in Malaysia because Malaysia is home.

I am perhaps the unlikeliest candidate to choose the civil service. The first question most people ask is “Why did you join the civil service?”, and then it is usually followed by “When are you leaving (the civil service)?”. There were two options for me to join the civil service, my first choice was to join the academia. When I embarked on the application process, they told me that they weren’t keen on accepting me because they were afraid that I would leave the University after I got my post-graduate qualifications. Facing such negativity, I gave up on that option and chose to join the civil service proper.

Even with my excellent results, overseas certification and private sector experience, I started off with the basic graduate’s pay grade, which was very low, considering that with my overseas certification, I could get a job in other countries which would pay between RM10,000 — RM40,000 a month. As such, I was only getting somewhere around RM35,000 per annum. The current salary I get, is just enough to maintain a comfortable middle income lifestyle if I don’t purchase a car or house. But I thought that if I wanted to bring change to the industry, I had to be the change. Money isn’t everything, so I stayed. (Remuneration, check; idealism, check.)

I don’t begrudge my three years of service, and I believe I had performed well in my job especially in the implementation of the ETP (Economic Transformation Programs) which I believed would benefit the country. I am pulling well above my weight and pay grade in my current responsibilities. My performance was recognised when they awarded me the Excellent Service Award for my second year of service. (Job satisfaction, check.)

Then, two days after Christmas 2012, they dropped a bombshell. I was being transferred, arbitrarily, to the southern-most state away from my family, especially my infant child who is still nursing. Mind you, this is not a promotion; in fact, it would involve a reduction in take-home pay and increased expenses as I would have to travel weekly to be with my family while at the same time, maintain living in two separate locations. In addition, the notice period for the transfer was a mere three weeks with all the holidays and clearing of annual leave days, barely enough time to properly hand over all the important programmes under the ETP that I have been working on. Neither does this transfer contribute to my career development. And all this was done without giving any reason or consultation in advance. This is not only happening to me, but many of my colleagues.

I question the rationale behind this as it affects the performance and continuity of government programmes, violates employee/civil servant welfare and most importantly lacks talent management.

So, can anyone explain how I am supposed to stay on while it is obvious, to me at least, that there are greener pastures in the private sector and even overseas? Good intentions towards the service of the country do not put food on the table nor is it a good enough reason for me to sacrifice my family life.

I hope that the policymakers in Talent Corp, Commission of Public Service (SPA) and Department of Public Service (JPA) will be able to identify the flaws in the current system and rectify them so that people like me will be motivated to remain and contribute to the betterment of the country.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.