July 25, 2019
Why I was once fired from a State government bureaucracy
It has just occurred to me that I have never written anything about the time I was sacked from the NSW Public Service. It has never been a secret. It just didn't seem important in my scale of values. But maybe there are some small lessons to learn from it. Though it was over 50 years ago now.
When I had completed my B.A. degree with honours in psychology from the University of Qld. at the end of 1967, I decided I needed a change of scene from Brisbane so I moved South to Sydney. Being Mr Frugality, I had a comfortable level of savings, no debts and a sky blue VW beetle -- so the transition was an unproblematic one.
I did however want a job. So I went along to the Army recruiting office. From my time in the CMF in Brisbane I was a fully qualified Sergeant in the Psychology corps so thought I might get work there. They grabbed me. An extra qualified hand was very welcome. So within days of arriving I was back in the Army!
I was not however interested in an army career so I looked around for an alternative. So I took the selection test for the NSW public service. Taking tests is one of the few things I am good at so I got an immediate welcome. One of the tests I did was a test of computer aptitude. Bill Bailey was the man in charge of that so he called me in for a chat. He revealed that I had gone off the scale for the test. I had got every single item right. Bill wanted to see who this freak was! The reason I did well, however, was not very freakish. I was by that time already an experienced FORTRAN programmer. When I told Bill that he was greatly relieved. It meant that his test had given the right answer after all
I was assigned to the Dept. of Technical Education as a graduate clerk. Their graduate clerk program was however a typical bureaucratic bungle. The only work they had for me was filing, something I had done years ago as a junior clerk in the Queensland Dept. of Public Works. I was quite miffed at being given such dumb work so I refused to do it. And it was all downhill from there.
Eventually I was transferred to Head office where they gave me some slightly more interesting work. I did what was asked but there was not much of it so I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I was at the time enrolled with the M.A. program at the University of Sydney so I mostly used the spare time on academic work. The managers apparently felt unable to do anything about that.
But one morning, just after I had handed in my Master's thesis at U Syd towards the end of the year, I unintentionally slept in and arrived at work late. That was it! They had me. Lateness was something they could act on. So I was promptly fired that day. There would have been access to an appeal but I didn't bother. I knew I was going on to other things next year.
So I went and saw Harry Beanham, whom I had worked for at one time in Brisbane. Harry had been impressed with my work in Brisbane. I sold lots of diehead chasers for him, if anybody knows what they are. Few do. Anyway Harry promptly put me to work preparing his stock for sale. So in the space of less than a year I had got 3 jobs, none of which were advertised!
Lessons: Don't be late in a bureaucracy and finding a job is easy if you have usable skills and qualifications.
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