Social Web

At Web's Social Hive For Government Workers, A Mix Of Disillusion, Hope

The U.S. Capitol is seen April 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers reached an agreement that prevented a shutdown of much of the U.S. government. i i

The U.S. Capitol is seen April 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers reached an agreement that prevented a shutdown of much of the U.S. government. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
The U.S. Capitol is seen April 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers reached an agreement that prevented a shutdown of much of the U.S. government.

The U.S. Capitol is seen April 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers reached an agreement that prevented a shutdown of much of the U.S. government.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the government shutdown started to seem inevitable, the talk on the public employee social networking site govloop.com quickened. It started with the practical, like a top ten list of what government workers should do in case of a shutdown: Things like water your plants, fill out your timecard and make plans to show up at the office on Monday to, in the least, turn in your Blackberry. Then as the sun set on Friday, it turned to the comical: Like Conan O'Brien, one member suggested, govies should stop shaving and grow a beard as long as the furlough lasts.

But with the threat looming large, some members of the site, turned serious. A good deal of the sentiments expressed dealt with the fact that these people were worker bees who felt stuck and powerless facing a Congress playing politics and an American public who thinks government workers are fat and lazy.

Danielle Blumenthal asked how the threat of shutdown affected other members' commitment to public service.

Henry Brown responded by saying it was the "FINAL straw in forcing me into scheduling my retirement."

Karen, on the site's Facebook page, said she'd rather the government shutdown than keep riding a wave of uncertainty "every two weeks."

Peter Sperry? He took the philosophical view:

It is an unfortunate part of the politcal process but a small price to pay for living in a democracy. I am sure the Chinese government will never shut down and the Libyan government seems able to remain open but I would not trade their system for ours.

Govloop, known by some as the Facebook for government workers, was founded by Steve Ressler, who spent more than five years as a government worker himself. He left the public sector after govloop became successful enough that he had to dedicate himself full-time to the site. He started the site in June of 2008 and now has some 42,000 members.

He said the threat of a government shutdown has energized the community.

"Most public servants want to do good," said Ressler. "They're passionate about what they do and they want to give back."

He said as members mulled a shutdown, the site created mentoring relationships where workers who had been through the '95 shutdown or the state government workers who had been laid off by the hundreds shared tips and experiences with the government newbies.

In some ways, said Ressler, the site has also humanized the public worker.

To that end, Kerry Ann O'Connor proposed that if the furlough did come, the feds should take the opportunity to reconnect with the American public. Tell your stories, O'Connor extolled.

"What people don't understand is that federal workers are people, too," said Ressler. As Friday came to an end and a deal seemed impossible, news that Z-Burger in Washington, D.C. was giving away free burgers to federal employees worked its way through the network.

"If you went out there, there's probably a line full of people you went to high school with, a neighbor, someone on the same kickball team as you," said Ressler.

At the eleventh hour, Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement and averted the first government shutdown in more than 15 years.

A hopeful piece from Blumenthal remained one of the most popular on govloop. It was about her "Karate Kid moment," she wrote. You know, that scene when Daniel "faced his fear and found his inner strength:"

I looked around today, another 100 mile per hour day, and I saw my colleagues working just as fast. To get things orderly and taken care of. They don't shout but they are damn tough. Resolute. Smiling and with good humor.

They may shut the government down, for a time. But we are not going anywhere.

Happy to serve. Proud to be chosen. Grateful for the opportunity. Glad to be one of the team.

Go govies. Govies ROCK!

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