New to the Civil Service? Here’s what you need to know

This month I’m celebrating five years in the civil service. Two new people have just joined my team so I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt over the years to help them settle in:
  1. There’s a second language that civil servants speak. It’s called Acronym and even people who speak it fluently can’t translate it.
  2. You don’t train, you learn and develop.
  3. Every aspect of your working day needs its own website with a separate log in. From booking a room, to claiming expenses, to booking a train ticket, to posting on the intranet, to recording your ‘learning and development’. Some of these websites are a fascinating insight into 1990s technology.
  4. Documents have feelings. They can be sensitive.
  5. People like to share sweets, biscuits and cake. Any excuse will do – birthdays, holidays, it’s Friday, a boring meeting. People DO NOT like to share their milk. If you’re planning to help yourself to a splash of someone else’s milk for your tea, approach the fridge the way you would enter a hostile territory: don’t draw attention to yourself, plan an exit strategy, have a few diversionary tactics ready.
  6. ‘Deep dive’ sounds like something that’s going to be fun but it isn’t.
  7. It’s customary to copy at least 12 people in to every email you send. The more people you copy in, the more likely the one person the email is relevant to will respond.
  8. You don’t need any special qualities to be popular. To make friends you just need a stapler, some decent pens and an iPhone charger. Keep your supplies under lock and key. Taking stationery without asking is not considered stealing.
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