In my research on public employee pay with Jason Richwine, we’ve worked to put a value on the greater job security enjoyed by federal, state and local government workers. Job security is like a free insurance policy against unemployment.
But this story from the Social Security Administration, my old employer, shows that job security has a downside. The SSA has rescinded its reprimand of the famous “flatulent work,” who was chastised for, well, fouling the work environment.
This raises a legitimate objection to our valuation of job security. While it’s great to be unfireable, in practice it usually means that your coworkers can’t be fired either. This can lead to a less pleasant work environment, thereby making public employment most attractive for individuals for whom job security or other perks of public employment are really important. This may make it harder to recruit the highly skilled, highly motivated individuals that government ideally would seek to employ but for whom guaranteed jobs aren’t as important.