Editorial: the importance of landing softly

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Photo: Jerzy Snowman / blog.nj.com

The so-called golden handshakes and soft landings for long serving (executive) employees are often depicted in a negative context. Actually, what such customs or unwritten rules in working relationships really show is maturity of an organisation. In the sense of organisational culture, holding veteran employees in honour reflects values which are desired to be shown to those on the outside. Such organisations show themselves to be strong. Exactly the same goes for the state and the employer. 

In developed democracies, it is entirely sensible for (high) ex-managers of certain state agencies find jobs someplace else in the state structure.

As taxpayers and reading the news of such manoeuvres we may think that the next somebody landed on a cosy chair. But it isn’t the issue of morally justified benefit or special treatment earned over the years. Indeed, manoeuvring people into other state jobs or even creating for him a new post (widespread is continuing as adviser in same domain) may be outright essential.  

Doubtless, having worked at a post for years and in the know of the background of the structure and decision making processes, people possess a remarkable baggage of information including sensitive data (talking about people like security police director-general, central criminal police chief, information board head). Such knowledge moving into private sector or, in other words, out of the state’s control, may lead to an unequal situation at public procurements or an outright security risk. On the other hand, it is important for the state to make use of the experience and competence of such people – not every wheel needs to be reinvented neither is it necessary to repeat earlier mistakes in crisis management.

Estonia is a state sufficiently developed and economically viable – creating some single posts for the aforementioned reason is no remarkable burden on state budget.

True, the salary figure does often seem big for the public thus triggering the feeling of easy job and thus unjustness as if. But this claim is nullified by follow-up careers of numerous people who had risen to responsible posts in public sector. For instance, some of them have found employment in various EU structures or in universities as teachers; and several have opted for politics, too.

Journalism pays heightened attention to outgoing top officials and this is understood. It is in public interests that the new or created post and the benefits that go with it be all out transparent. In principle, for instance, a person entering a ministry’s leadership must pass through the personnel sifting prescribed by law. It is important to know why this and that person with his or her know-how gets engaged with what. At times, soft landings are necessary, but they have to be and look honest and just.