If you have a new account but are having problems posting or verifying your account, please email us on [email protected] for help. Thanks :)
Hello all! Please ensure that you are posting a new thread or question in the appropriate forum. The Feedback forum is overwhelmed with questions that are having to be moved elsewhere. If you need help to verify your account contact [email protected]

AO in the Civil Service - thinking of quitting

  • 09-01-2022 6:08pm
    Registered Users Posts: 6

    Hi all, hopefully posted in the right area. Just looking for advice really. I'm currently an AO in the Civil Service working remotely like a lot of people (which I hate but that's another story). So I've recently passed probation in my role but the job is seriously depressing me. I've recently been referred to the EAP scheme and I'm now seeing a counsellor but this is not helping.

    My issue is my job role doesn't really exist and I find myself logging on in the morning and logging off in the evening and doing virtually no constructive work in between whatsoever. I answer to my manager (who's not a civil servant) and he gives me a few scraps of work from time to time but it's paltry stuff. My manager is also a bit of a power tripper and likes to belittle people on calls. I have no self worth from this job. I was promoted from CO and somehow have less responsibility, less work and less self-regard than I had at CO level.

    Before I quit is there anything I can do? You have to put in two years before mobility which would mean another sixteen months doing this soul crushing bs before I have the chance to get out. Is it possible to enroll in another AO competition or would the fact I'm already in an AO job count against me? I've no colleagues to bounce ideas off and any advice would be much appreciated!



  • Registered Users Posts: 6 ronb1412004

    If you feel this bad after a few months and its affecting you that badly then use your days logged on to look for another job.

    No job is worth your mental health.

    Ideally you could hang around for 16 months and try find somethjng within there but it sounds like youre way past that point.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Sorry to hear of your troubles. I spent a very long and rewarding time in the civil service and I had the good fortune to work with a lot of AOs, but unfortunately I have encountered people in your position from time to time. Can I ask some questions?

    You've passed probation. Does that therefore mean your manager had no issue with you passing? Sounds like the answer's obvious, but it isn't always the case.

    Are you in the union? Have you had any contact from the union?

    Aside from your manager, are you having business contact with others in the organisation?

    What contact are you having with other AOs? In the organisation or elsewhere?

    How do you come to be reporting to someone who isn't a civil servant? That might be hard for you to explain on a public forum, but it's an important question because it's unusual.

    In the meantime, it's no harm to be looking about for options, but I'd advise you not to jump to any decisions just yet. In my experience people are never quite as alone or as isolated as they think, no matter how bad things look or feel. Best of luck.

  • Registered Users Posts: 378 ✭✭Bicyclette

    Can you do any sort of training that will stand to you in the long run? Something where the CS will pay your fees? If you have all of that extra time, take advantage of it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6 TorqueTwist

    Thanks for the replies guys. Yeah I think it's unique enough position to be in, in that I'm a Civil Servant in a dept. that's full of Public Servants, shall we say, who are answerable to themselves. So I'm quite isolated. I'm stuck between these public servants who view us as an irritation and an external consultancy who don't like sharing their work with me. I'm utterly sick of it all. Always being the last to know things, kept out of any meaningful meetings, patronised and lied to on a weekly basis. I'll definitely not last the sixteen months.

    Haven't spoken to my union yet - I think I'll contact them tomorrow. It's such a pity as I was stoked about getting the job originally and I consider myself a fairly capable person who likes project work. I just feel completely isolated.

  • Registered Users Posts: 24,932 ✭✭✭✭Wishbone Ash



  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 6 TorqueTwist

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Look all I'll say is that its a long career and AO is a great position from which to launch a very fulfilling role in a lot of directions

    If you haven't enough to do for now, train up in anything that you can get approved for that you are interested in and that will add to your cv in the areas you need.

    If no approval or official recognition is available, train up on the available materials anyway and gain the knowledge with the time available

    The AO training programme is usually a good way to build contacts and involves a fair bit of project and collaborative work, is that not kicked off for you yet?

    Plenty of free time and a manager ignoring you isnt the worst way to serve out your first stint in a position- forget about their manner besides if you can, 16 months is nothing in the long run believe me.

    Think carefully about what the issues you can discuss with yr manager are and how you can sell a solution to them that would suit you both

    Additionally, put down another set of thoughts that you might be able to discuss constructively with hr as a separate conversation (about the possibility of a move or a tweak in the role, not as a way to address whatever you think your managers problems are, is my advice)

    Take a few days then read both these sets of thoughts very critically, ask yourself if they are clear, fair, helpful and constructive and do they reflect not just your issues but the best manner in which you could raise them before you think any further on asking for either chat. I think it would be a useful exercise for you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6 TorqueTwist

    Cheers snoopsheep, wise words indeed. Half of me is in Kamikaze mode and just wants to get out of there. But the other half is thinking 'why throw away a decent career just for this one road block?' But because of where I am - and I'll happily pm anyone who asks - my public servant colleagues literally don't give a sh!t about us Civil Servants. My boss is beyond approachable he explained their ethos, which is "ask up, talk down". So he literally talks down to me. I can't address him other than by his title. Which is utter boll!x. There's no open door policy here, it's very much do as your told and don't question it.

    And it's the isolation that's really killing me at the moment. Having no other colleagues to reach out to leaves you feeling very vulnerable. Ughh. Don't know what to do.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,384 ✭✭✭billyhead

    Have you raised these issues during PMDS meetings. Is you're line manager actually aware of the issue? You need to spell it out to him and if that goes nowhere escalate it further up the line. If you still have no joy as suggested get onto the union who will liaise with HR.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    @snoopsheep makes a lot of valid points, and describes a lot of what being an AO is about, in effect. In developing a career over the long term you may occasionally find yourself working in an area or on a project that's a pain in the arse, but that's fine as long as there's some upside to the posting in terms of skills and knowledge development. If that's not happening for you then you do have a problem - but BION there are worse problems you could have, and if the job isn't developing you and you have some spare time, it's no harm for you to use that time to do some training and development off your own bat.

    AOs should generally be in line policy functions with a fairly short reporting line through to PO and A/Sec. Most of the A/Secs and POs I've worked with have tended to take a quite direct interest in the development of AOs in their work areas, and for that reason didn't tend to leave things up to the direct line managers of the AOs at AP level, However, if the people you're reporting to aren't in that zone themselves they won't be helpful in terms of your development. In fact, they may not even realise that they're missing the point. That can be demotivating, unless you can find a way of figuring out the best way forward for you; in that regard I'd recommend you have a closer look at some of the suggestions made by @snoopsheep.

    I think that's also why the questions around your connections to other AOs and other people in the organisation matter. You should be getting the opportunity to engage other AOs in the AO training programme. If that's not happening then you need to know why not; I know the there were pandemic-related holdups in the programme, but I don't know if those are still relevant. You should use the programme to build contacts and connections with other AOs. Likewise, the benefit of business connections elsewhere in the organisation is simply that you get to connect to people who have different ways of doing things to your own line manager. For an AO, that should include more senior managers in your own reporting line.

    The main benefit of speaking to your union should come if you continue to feel (or to be) isolated. If you can't get meaningful work and you aren't getting any traction when you try to resolve that with your management, the union can't directly fix those. But they might be able to help if you (for example) put constructive suggestions to help your development to line management and HR but find yourself getting fobbed off or stonewalled.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 31,636 ✭✭✭✭gmisk

    Some great advise here

    Would you consider going for a different role? Would you maybe talk to HR in your own org? I know people move role internally in our place at the same level

  • Registered Users Posts: 6 TorqueTwist

    The PMDS meeting was a joke - I had actually walking out on the job a week or so before because my boss - line manager slash manager slash overlord had called me and belittled me and patronised me and humiliated me all over an email he himself had asked me to write. I literally turned off my computer that day and didn't log in the next day. I was ready to walk out on the job. I think that shook him up enough so that he arranged an in person meeting which solved nothing. Just recommended the EAP service. I think I'm just the latest in a long line of AOs and EOs that come through the ranks and get spat out.

    Yeah I think I'll definiitely get onto the union because my current working status is awful.

  • Registered Users Posts: 230 ✭✭elgicko

    Probation is 1 year, you have only done 8 months. When you start a job in CS or are promoted, you need to do 1 year probation before you are made substantive.

    You will have 3 probation reports, 3 month, 6 month and signoff at 12 months.

    You can go for any open competition you like including AO. You can't do interdepartmental at AO as you ain't got 2 years done at AO.

    My advice depends how long you in CS? If you are there a good few years, sit back, do what is asked of you, do some training, upskill, do the 16 months and get out on mobility, you can't really be refused.

    Good luck!

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,750 ✭✭✭LillySV

    Fuk sake enjoy it if you haven’t much to do, I’m in the total opposite situation … up to my neck in work …. Would delightfully trade positions tbh.

    as others already said, u should try and get further education through the refund of fees scheme , and get further qualifications for yourself while work is quiet … that would keep ya occupied .

    in regard to how you feel you are viewed by the public servants… frig them, why do u care ??you should only care about your family and loved ones, do your job, get what you can from it and possibly move on to bigger and better

  • Registered Users Posts: 421 ✭✭C4000

    I would suggest looking for a meeting with HR. Keep a record for a few weeks of the work that you are assigned and have this ready to discuss with them. Explain that you feel that your manager does not assign any meaningful work and that you are struggling with this scenario. You should have a formal role profile that sets out the responsibilities of the job and this should provide the basis of a meaningful set of tasks appropriate to your grade, if this isn't in place or isn't implemented then your manager isn't doing his job properly.

    While there might be a formal policy of staying in a role for two years before being able to apply for a transfer, during my time in the Civil service I have seen many people being accomdated when they are having difficulty with a particular role/situation. It's definitely worth talking to them about.

    I think I have an idea of the organisation that you might be working for and, if I'm right, I have worked with a couple of civil servants that also worked there and had similar experiences with the culture and attitude to regular civil service staff. In the long term, a transfer to a regular department might be a better option.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,908 ✭✭✭zom

    "Fuk sake enjoy it if you haven’t much to do, I’m in the total opposite situation … up to my neck in work"

    Same here. COVID reduced vacancies in my work, and somehoe people who stayed now are forced to cope with 2-3 workers responsibility.

    Would love to trade position. I try to save financial cushion in case I finaly got screwed too much and decide to search for other job.

    "I have no self worth from this job"

    Same here. It doesnt matter if youre hell busy or doing nothing. Actually it is even more depressing if yure hell busy..

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,384 ✭✭✭billyhead

    I think there's a fine medium between overworked and underworked. I would love to find that medium myself😅. In the OPs case it can be demoralising when underworked and left out. As suggested by others you should undertake a course to further yourself and pass the time until you're situation changes.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 22,259 CMod ✭✭✭✭Pawwed Rig

    How can you enjoy a job where you have nothing to do? That would be soul crushing. Other advice is sit and wait it out for 16 months?

    Life is too short for that. Go get a job you enjoy OP.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,244 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

    Not a lot to add to what's very good advice above but as obvious as it is.

    Have you applied for mobility.

    If not get it in this morning.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 2,650 ✭✭✭AngryLips

    Sounds like you have grounds to lodge a grievance ...perhaps as a way of getting yourself unstuck from this situation?

  • Registered Users Posts: 123 ✭✭James2020App

    Why do you not have a look at your organisation chart and try to get advice on what to do from someone, preferably higher up. Surely if you asked around other PO equivalents etc in the same organisation and are like, can I please help you with something? I have nothing to do. Many PO's would happily gave you something to do and may help your situation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,050 ✭✭✭gazzer

    OP. Live is too short to be in a job you dont like. If you can afford to do it can you go back to being a CO or take the next couple of months to see if there is any possibility you can be moved around the department you are in?

    I talk from personal experience. I went from EO to HEO to AP in a space of 3 months. Just happened that I got on an internal HEO panel and an external AP panel at the same time and the two jobs came up in that short time.

    My experience as an AP was horiffic. My boss was a micro manager who lived for his work. He would do 12/13 hour days in the office and expected me to do the same. Lots of issues that I wont get into here and it was amplified by the fact that as I basically jumped from EO to AP (with a couple of months as an HEO) I was somewhat out of my depth. I knew it would take time to get up to speed with such a big promotion but my boss put hurdles in my way at each juncture. Wouldnt sign off my quarterly probation, would ask me to do things but then do them himself without telling me. It ended up in a number of screaming matches which I am sure the whole floor heard.

    HR didnt help at all. I asked if I could be transferred, I asked if I could have some mediation between me and my Manager. Nothing happened, the situation got worse. My mental health fell big time and I was a shell of my former self. I used to pride myself on my ability to adapt to different situations in work and over the previous 20 year period in the Civil Service I always rose to the occasion and was never afraid of hard work. I know that if I had have been working in a different area I would have flourised but you have to deal with the cards you are dealt. Hand on my heart I always got on well with my managers in previous positions but I suppose through your career you will always end up working with the one that you dont click with.

    In the end I referted back to HEO and in my case it was the best thing I did. My mental health improved, my confidence grew and know I am 3 years a HEO and ready to apply for a new promotion if it comes up this year.

    Since I reverted back a grade I have found out that 2 other people left my old area due to this manager. Very bad situation all around but I try not to dwell on it. Best of luck in what you decide to do.

  • Registered Users Posts: 217 ✭✭Skippette

    Hi OP, you have received some very good advise above. If you have access to OneLearning - I'm not sure if you do, there are a number of courses that you can do online. This will give you something to do and something to have going forward. Even if it's as simple as Word for beginners - do it, do all the courses that you can. It will then minimise your time with your manager.

    Also very very important - write everything down that has to do with your manager. If possible save emails, if's its a call - send an email to yourself with details of the call and what they said to you. If there are messages, or WhatsApp messages, save them - screen shot them. Every bit of detail and evidence is important to keep.

    Apply for mobility now! Yes, you are not eligible for 2 years, but in that time, your position will still move along, so all going well, you may be top of the list when you are eligible. Also, see about a sideways move internally within the organisation - this may work out quicker.

    Best of luck with your decision!

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,384 ✭✭✭billyhead

    The only problem with mobility although in this case anything is better then the OPs situation is the grass isn't always greener so that's just something for others to keep in mind when applying for mobility.

  • Registered Users Posts: 265 ✭✭BhoyRayzor

    Going by what you have described it seems pretty obvious where you are talking about, comparing it to other threads on here before of a particular public sector employer. As others have said, do what you can to help you change employer, not the grade, that is your achievement that a toxic organisational structure shouldn't take away from you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    Hi buddy

    I am very sorry to hear of this in your role.

    My first piece of advice would be as this is the start of the year and you are going to do your goal setting is to sit down and construct a job role for your self that you will send in to your line manager. This might be an AP and might be rejected as I suspect however this must be looked at by his line manager and it is a useful tool. Within this at least take them for every piece of training you can get with a plan to move on by the end of the year .

    Within any large department there are people appointed in HR whom look after employee relations. The EAP is good (if its the same people I am thinking of...CSEAS?) , they have some very pragmatic advice and can give some constructive advice. In regards to the HR person and whomever looks after the employee relations - give them a call and quietly explain what is happening. I had a colleague in another section do this as we were friends and he had personal circumstances which saw him get a move closer to home. Yes the mobility is two years but a quiet word in the ear of HR can sometimes work. Please also approach your PO if you have one and can to lay out the situation but manager tip - with every problem offer a solution or two - this shows that you have been proactively trying to address it (just trust me on that)

    If you are in a department which is independent of the larger departments (HSA, IPO, Enterprise Ireland etc etc) then certainly think about using the links to the parents department as a spring board. Internally you might be eligible for secondments.

    Talk to your union about the supports that are open for you. In some cases the unions will have a knowledge of little tricks of the trade so to speak or can negotiation on your behalf assuming you are in the union they will be able to put out feelers.

    The big disadvantage is that if you go sick then you kind of sabotage yourself with a move - the civil service unfortunately see this as a liability in some cases (as I found out with colleagues)

    Thinking outside the box - network like mad and approach some others at your grade or if you are on friendly terms with others of a grade above maybe a quiet word about their advice for progressing careers is a great way of appealing to their sense as mentors. They will often enquire why and its up to you to decide how much to tell but if you just say you fancy a change for career advancement this might trigger someone with contacts. AO tends to be a policy focused position so you could say you want to do some further policy experience.

    In the interim I strongly advise you to get the competencies you lack for AP (if any) outside of work if you cannot get them in work.

    Finally please be kind to yourself and realize that this is a temporary state of affairs.

    From a long term civil servant

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    ^ excellent post & advice

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,143 ✭✭✭hardybuck

    View this as a test of your resilience and don't let your current manager ruin what should be a long and meaningful career in the Civil Service for you.

    If you're underworked at the moment you should take the opportunity to become as well informed as you possibly can be about your Department and the wider Civil Service generally. While it mightn't be the case at the moment, as an AO people will be looking to you for ideas and input regarding policy development and implementation. You need to be proactively upskilling, making connections with people when you can, and when the opportunity comes knocking you'll hopefully have something of value to offer.

    You also mightn't be aware of it, but it might be generally accepted within the organisation that your manager is difficult to work with/for. The PO and the A/Sec might be very aware of it, and I've seen situations where they have to get involved.

    Definitely maintain a friendly dialogue with your HR colleagues, and get on the AO Programme if you haven't already done so.

    Stick with it and this will soon pass.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 9,384 ✭✭✭billyhead

    The AO programme is mandatory for all new AOs. The OP should build up contacts via that.