By Phil Piemonte
Well, folks, we hope you enjoy (or enjoyed) your Labor Day holiday. Because as you probably already know, there will some rough days ahead for feds after Washington kicks back into full gear.
Among the threats in the mix:
- The move by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to jack up the contribution that Federal Employees Retirement System participants currently make to their defined benefit pension.
- The “Gang of Six” proposal to squeeze tens of billions of dollars of savings from federal civilian retirement over 10 years.
- The idea being bandied about in talks between Congress and the White House to cut federal retirement costs by using the highest five years of salary (rather than the current high three) to calculate annuities.
- And if the website SavingThePostalService.com, just launched by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is any indication, U.S. Postal Service workers will start feeling the pressure as Issa’s effort to reform (i.e., downsize) USPS takes on a lot of renewed vigor.
This list just scratches the surface, of course. The tighter budgets that begin kicking in with the start of the new fiscal year in October will impose a whole new set of pressures on federal workers.
So we hope everyone is relaxed and rested because fiscal 2012 is likely to make 2011 look like the good old days.
Posted on Sep 02, 2011 at 1:07 PM11 comments
Here in the capital region, the biggest calamities we experience are usually political in nature. Lately, they have been just in nature.
So far in 2011, the region has been hit by a blizzard, an earthquake and now a hurricane.
OK, maybe what we call a blizzard here is just the status quo in some place like Vermont, and our earthquake would barely earn a mention in California, and the effects we experience from hurricanes seldom come close what folks see on a disconcertingly frequent basis in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
But you have to admit that having all three in the span of seven months is a little weird.
While one veteran Washington journalist opined that it’s a good thing that members of Congress were out of town during the latest twin occurrences (to spare us the long-winded ramblings of news-bite-seeking lawmakers), some of us think it might have been a good thing if they had been here.
We think it might have been a reminder to the powerful — from someone or something — of how insignificant one feels in the face of the unstoppable.
It might have reminded them that power of the political kind is illusory — a lesson this Congress in particular could have used. When federal buildings began to rock, we’ll bet most of them would have run for the door, like everyone else, with nothing else in mind but getting out that door. Once outside, they might have straightened their ties, smoothed their hair and looked around sheepishly.
And as the hurricane approached, as they observed the local folks rushing around for batteries and ice and bottled water, they might have started to realize that "Washington” is more than a metaphor — it’s a place full of real people who roll their eyes when pols speak disparagingly of the place where they live and raise their families.
It might have given them a sense of scale. Caused them to reset. Reminded them that, when it comes down to it, each one of them is just another person among the teeming masses.
On second thought, never mind. An earthquake probably wouldn’t do it. That would take a miracle.
Posted on Aug 26, 2011 at 1:56 PM3 comments
Being a brainiac may not necessarily be the keys to the kingdom when seeking a government job, according to one recent survey.
In the survey, sponsored by job search company CareerBuilder Government Solutions, 70 percent of government employers said they value high “emotional intelligence” over high IQ. The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, surveyed 267 hiring managers and human resources professionals across various levels of government, including federal employers.
According to the survey sponsors, emotional intelligence (EI) is “a general measurement of a person’s abilities to control emotions, to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions, and manage complex relationships.”
In addition to indicating that they put a higher value on EI, 62 percent of respondents also said they would not hire someone who has a high IQ but low EI.
Most of the survey respondents also indicated they probably would favor high EI employees when promotion time came—77 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to promote the high EI worker over the high IQ employee.
In addition, 34 percent of respondents indicated that they are placing a greater emphasis on high EI for hiring and promotion decisions in the current post-recession environment.
Why is high EI is more important than high IQ? Respondents to the survey listed a number of reasons, in order of importance:
- Employees with high EI know how to resolve conflict effectively.
- They are more likely to stay calm under pressure.
- They are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly.
- They know what touches and motivates others.
So how do these government employers identify high EI individuals? Apparently it’s mostly through simple observation. Here are some of the top characteristics that employers said help them single out high EI individuals:
- They admit and learn from their mistakes.
- They can keep emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues.
- They listen as much or more than they talk.
- They show grace under pressure.
- They take criticism well.
Of course, none of this means that there is anything wrong with being a brainiac. Being smart certainly is not a detriment in the workplace—as long as it does not come with a swelled head. A typical “know-it-all”—whether highly intelligent or operating under the illusion that he or she is—probably would have none of the characteristics in the second list above.
So—what do you think? How do the new hires around you measure up on the EI scale? Does it look to you as though hiring managers really are looking for these characteristics? Or is EI just HR hokum?
Posted on Aug 23, 2011 at 2:02 PM16 comments
Ever feel like you're being waterboarded by the federal government?
Certainly the people who work for the U.S. Postal Service must feel that way, faced as they are with a proposal to reduce the size of the USPS workforce by 220,000 employees by 2015.
And now — only days after USPS announced that plan — certainly all feds must be getting a similar sensation creeping up on them in the wake of the recent announcement from the Office of Management and Budget.
We’re referring to the OMB directive instructing agencies to get ready to trim their budgets back by as much as 10 percent in fiscal 2013.
Federal financial officers have been told to turn in agency budgets for fiscal 2013 that are 5 percent lower than the current level. Agencies also have to suggest additional cuts of another 5 percent — or, in the words of OMB Director Jacob Lew: “Your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”
Yikes. That’s a bunch of cash.
Up to now, the pressure to cut, cut, cut has come from Congress, more specifically, the House. But now that the other house — the White House — has entered the fray, things are going to get even dicier in the federal workplace.
Unions already are warning that cutting back resources means fewer folks on the job to do the things that need to be done. In good PR fashion — and for perfectly valid reasons — they start by listing the people whose jobs affect everyone: the people who inspect the food supply, patrol the borders, enforce clean water and air regulations, do medical research, and so on.
The federal government does provide a lot of services to its citizens, and citizens are used to receiving them. That’s why a lot of people would argue that downsizing the machine that provides those services — especially in a very uncertain economy — does not seem like an especially timely move.
There’s another factor, too. Though a few advocates for feds have touched on it, we generally don’t see too much emphasis on what would seem to be a key question: How can you shrink a government when the population it governs is growing — and growing fast?
Let’s take a look.
In 2000, according the Census Bureau’s numbers, the nation’s population was 282 million people. Today (and we really mean today, this is according the bureau’s “population clock”) the U.S. population, as of Aug. 19, is 312,023,982.
That’s 30 million more people in 10 years.
For scale, the population of Scandinavia, according to some numbers we quickly retrieved online, is 19.8 million. That’s Sweden, Denmark and Norway together. Add those other sort-of-Scandinavian countries, Finland and Iceland, and you’re only up to 25.4 million — which is also about the population of Texas.
So, one wonders: How we can trim back the size of the federal government in an era in which the U.S. population grows each decade by more people than live in the state of Texas?
We don’t know. Maybe you have the answer.
Posted on Aug 19, 2011 at 6:59 AM35 comments