Oct. 2, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Handbook Offers Way To Survive the Jungle

It seems like everyone has something to say about the job market these days. In Washington, D.C., advice on working in government is given freely — almost too freely.

To be sure, knowing how to navigate the ins and outs of Washington can be valuable, but not all advice is equal, even when it comes in printed form.

Take, for example, “The Agency Game: Inside the Bureaucratic Jungle.” Self-published by first-time author William B. Parker, the book is billed as a “fun-filled, fact-driven book” to guide government workers. Make no mistake, though: Parker believes this is the definitive book you have been waiting for.

In truth, few readers will probably be helped in their careers, but they may gain a few chuckles along the way.

Subtitles hype the book as “The Unofficial Employee Handbook” and “A Guerrilla Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Government Service.” Readers are lured with a bright red “Notice” at the cover’s bottom: “Known or suspected possession of this publication by government employees could become grounds for extreme disciplinary sanctions, up to and including termination. As for possession by non-government citizens, who gives a rat’s ass?”

Structured as an encyclopedic tell-all, Parker’s book attempts to categorize the phenomena he experienced while working in government and then to develop a framework for understanding and practice. Defining an “agency” as any generic unit of government with more than one employee, Parker attempts to include what he sees as the protocols, procedures and ploys that agency staff have perfected “ever since government was instituted among men.”

Believing government work to be a veritable jungle, Parker’s aims are unabashedly self-serving; he intends for employees to bend the system to their aims, or what he sees as “the public sector equivalent of self-actualization.”

Private to Public

Having spent time in a Fortune 500 company before working in the public sector, Parker said he was initially shocked at government agency behavior, which seemed contrary to basic organizational rules. Parker claims to be touching on what he says are the beginnings of a “true” science of agency behavior.

Parker believes public sector employees simply respond to their environment’s reward structure. Disregarding the notion that public benefit factors at all in practice, Parker says, “If curious (angry or horrified) members of the public don’t like what they read, they should bear in mind that this manual is not intended for them.” He also invites the public to figure out a model for government that actually stays true to its intended purpose, believing it to be inevitable for an agency’s intended purposes to fade with time.

Multitude of Topics

The book is laid out according to an alphabetical listing of topics, covering some 200 categories that Parker deems to be helpful in navigating government work.

Undoubtedly, many who read Parker’s categories and subsequent advice will find them too difficult to absorb. His categories are radically different from what might be seen in a standard employee handbook, but they can also be quite amusing with Parker’s penchant for personal anecdotes.

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