The Award

Recognition is nice, especially when it comes from your employer, but Spanish civil servant Joaquin Garcia would probably have been happier if his name hadn’t come up for a long-service award. If not for that, maybe no-one would have ever asked the question as to where he was.

Garcia had managed to do what many of us only dream about: he was getting paid for doing nothing. He had a job, but no-one seemed to have noticed that he hadn’t shown up for work for a few years.

It was a civil service job, but I suspect the situation could almost as easily have happened in a large private enterprise company. The man wasn’t paid much, just over $40,000 annually, but that is a lot of money when you don’t have to do anything for it. (There was a time when $40,000 was a lot of money, more than I could have dreamed of as an annual salary. Inflation changes things.)

His reason for not showing up? He was being “bullied” and afraid to report it for fear he would be the one fired. Tough to prove, as this is just now coming to light, and he retired in 2010 – I presume with a full pension.

I’ve always hoped to have a job where I would be paid to think just think. Let my mind go down whatever path that interests it on any given day. No reports to write, no accountability, complete freedom. Such opportunities are actually readily available, however they don’t come with an income attached. That’s where the system breaks down as far as I am concerned. I am not addicted to money as money, but cold Canadian winters require heat and shelter, which don’t seem to come free.

My first reaction to the news story was humour mixed with disgust at someone bilking the system, followed by mild envy of a worker who managed to do something that most of us wish we could get away with. But what if his story was true? What if he was being bullied and didn’t feel safe reporting it? That changes the perspective.

We don’t all have the courage to confront our adversaries. We aren’t all strong enough as people to deal with the issues confrontation brings. Sometimes silence, or not showing up for work, is the easy way out. That doesn’t make it right, but it is understandable.

Garcia was fined for his non-attendance (he is appealing). But the half a dozen news stories I read did not indicate what, if anything, is being done to investigate the allegations of workplace bullying. Shouldn’t that be examined? The man is retired now, he might not be so reluctant to name names.

What about his supervisor? The civil service is a hierarchy after all, everyone reports to someone. It would seem to me that Garcia’s boss has some hard questions to answer if he didn’t notice his employee was missing for six years.

Inn these days of civil service cutbacks, something that seems to be pretty much universal no matter which country you are in, I think it is fair to say that there is at least one job there that could be eliminated.

I guess they didn’t give him the long-service award.

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