souffle.jpgGovernment workers can’t get a break.

They’ve become the target of endless negative attacks. Many pundits keep beating the drum that government should operate more like Corporate America when it comes to the workforce. Businesses, not government bureaucrats, know how to save money and motivate employees, they stress.

Turns out, few really believe government managers should take a page from private business managers.

Last night CNN did a scathing piece on the General Services Administration saying they uncovered evidence of wasteful spending. The government agency reportedly provided cooking classes for employees as part of a team-building exercise.

The GSA has come under fire recently for a host of spending decisions on employees but this particular one got CNN’s Anderson Cooper up in arms last night. Cooper is still mad they went to Vegas on the tax-payers dime last year for a conference.

You would think the team-building cooking classes would be getting kudos from critics of how the government works. Team-building workshops are a key tool used by private corporations, including Turner Broadcasting, the owners of CNN.

According to the Mien Shiang Institute’s website, Turner was one of many companies that engaged in the Taoist Five Element philosophy team-building programs they provide.

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The Institute maintains its team-building workshops “provides a powerful way to recognize one’s own qualities and the qualities of others, creating harmony and productivity for your organization.”

I don’t want to take anything away for the Taoists out there, but cooking with a group of people can do this as well, no?

In fact, companies have been using such culinary team-building workshops for some time. Anita Bruzzese, the voice behind the 45 Things workplace blog, wrote in 2009 that:

Famed cook Julia Child once said that cooking is “just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving or music.”

Some employers are also hoping it’s a surefire recipe for motivating and inspiring workers.

At a time when employee engagement is critical because of reduced staffs and increased competition in tough economic times, employers are seeking ways to help employees bond better not only with co-workers, but with managers . They’re stepping into Child’s world – the kitchen – to do just that.

Maybe Cooper was lucky enough to get out of team-building initiatives at his company, but they’re a corporate reality and have been for a long time.

If we want government to act like a business, pundits like Cooper will have to accept a few tax-payer funded soufflés.

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