Role of Federal Managers Needs Rethinking, Say Experts

At an event earlier in December hosted by the Coalition for Effective Change (CEC), various public policy and federal management experts offered their opinions on the current expectations of managers and supervisors in the federal government and how improvements in job selection and work duties can raise the efficacy of the federal workforce as a whole. Speakers at the event included former Office of Personnel Management (OPM) directors Constance Berry Newman (George H.W. Bush), Janice Lachance (Clinton), and Linda Springer (George W. Bush).

Newman and Lachance focused some of their commentary in a criticism of the evaluation process prevalent throughout the federal government, stating that differing evaluator standards can lead to a poorer-performing workforce. “What happens is, you get a tough evaluator, and then all the people working for that evaluator are in a worse position when they compete with those who have weak evaluators, and then there is this pressure for everybody to dumb the whole system down,” said Newman, who also advocated marking down supervisors and managers not doing a proper job with evaluations. Personnel evaluations are often some of the toughest waters to navigate on the job for a federal manager. While Newman’s critique is certainly valid, there are many factors that go into the evaluations of employees. Federal managers are acutely aware that they are often walking a minefield when thinking of giving poor performance evaluations, knowing that these sometimes lead to claims of discrimination and retaliation. As Newman pointed out, differences between how managers rate their employees can lead to some poor performers getting promoted in lieu of higher achievers. Without a notable overhaul in the performance evaluation process, however, getting all managers on the same page in regards to their evaluating practices will be incredibly difficult.

Linda Springer chose a different topic to focus on, as she staunchly advocated for increased compensation and making a career in the federal government a more attractive proposition. Springer harshly criticized the recent attitudes towards cutting into compensation and budgets for employees and agencies. “One of the philosophical notions that I have trouble with is that we can do everything on the cheap…I really, really have a strong aversion to ‘doing more with less,’” she said. The pressures that Springer critiqued have become ever more prevalent as budgetary cuts take effect. One of the most important jobs facing federal supervisors today is how to manage your office in the face of such cuts, while still rewarding high performers and keeping morale up. This struggle will be a great challenge for the entire federal workforce moving forward for the next year and years to come.

We hope that our Manager Matters column has been helpful for our readers in 2013, and we look forward to continually providing our readership with quality information and advice. Have a safe and productive 2014!

FEDS Professional Liability Insurance gives you the freedom to manage. For more information on your specific exposures now, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, please visit the FEDS website and choose the Executive and Managers tab.

Posted in Manager Matters

Tags: federal workforce, Coalition for Effective Change, Constance Newman, Janice Lachance, Linda Springer


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