After last week’s post on how federal managers can best deal with difficult employees, you probably have some ideas on what to do if you find yourself in that situation. But what can you do if the roles are reversed and you are the one working for an impossible manager? Whatever you do, refrain from becoming cynical, says Stewart Liff, a human resources management expert.
“Whatever happens in government or life, never let them make you cynical,” he said. “Once you’ve become cynical, you lose your credibility, your zest, your enthusiasm for why you came to work, and it will affect every part of your life.”
Here, Liff sums up three good steps to take when faced with a problem supervisor.
1. Check yourself. Take an introspective look and explore whether the problem lies within yourself, Liff said. “Ask yourself, 'what have I done wrong, why does this supervisor feel that I don’t have a good relationship with him? My attitude – am I doing something wrong and is there anything I can do better?'” he said. “The key here is to control your attitude because if you get cynical, it’s only going to get worse.”
Managers have different management styles and sometimes the employee has to make an adjustment in his or her attitude to match that, Liff added. “There’s not much in government and life you can control,” he said. “But one thing you can control is your attitude. If you’re going to walk around complaining, complaining, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why controlling your attitude is crucial.”
2. Manage your boss. Getting a better feel for who your boss is and what makes him or her tick is key in building a better relationship, Liff said. “Bosses are under a lot of stress and a lot of pressure and they lash out because they feel they’re not getting support from their employees,” he said. Getting to understand your supervisor and making yourself valuable is an excellent way of changing the dynamics and the relationship between the two of you, Liff said.
“In a sense, you want to be a collaborator,” he added. “The more you collaborate with your supervisor, the more you’re showing your supervisor creativity, the more they’ll see that you’re valuable. And the more they see you as valuable, the better the relationship is going to be.”
3. Quit your job. Sometimes it comes to just that: You need to leave. “You don’t always have to sit and take it,” Liff said. “If you have been in a bad situation for a number of years and you’ve tried the techniques I talked about, maybe it’s time to look for another job. There are 2 million jobs within the federal government you can take. If you look in the mirror and look at yourself, you can make adjustments. You can also weigh your options carefully -- talk to your mentors and people you trust to get a balanced perspective. And from there, you plot your strategy.”
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 08, 2011 at 12:19 PM7 comments
The nation is once again facing the threat of a government shutdown, the fourth one in less than a year. But is anyone paying any attention anymore?
The bipartisan bickering over the budget has aggravated many, and more are getting increasingly fed up with lawmakers' methods of approving only short-term fixes rather than one longer-term solution. One critic, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in late September that “these kinds of piecemeal steps serve no one well, including the men and women of the federal workforce who seek only to continue performing their missions on behalf of the public without the near-constant threat of interruption."
The federal government is currently operating on a stop-gap budget that expires Nov. 18. Unless Democrats and Republicans can agree and pass a 2012 budget or resort to yet another short-term funding measure, the government could again face the risk of a shutdown.
This time around, however, some consider the looming threat minimal. Federal News Radio reported that Office of Management and Budget head Jacob Lew said a shutdown seems unlikely when the continuing resolution ends less than two weeks from now.
“There is absolutely no reason that we should" have a shutdown, he said. Later he added that he did not believe “we were on the edge of shutdown in September when there was a bit of dustup over emergency funding."
A writer for Time magazine went as far as saying that “virtually no one on the Hill thinks the government will shut down this time.”
“Congress has actually made headway on at least half of its 13 annual appropriations bills for the first time in nearly three years, a relatively amazing display of functionality for an institution that has repeatedly proven its inefficacy this year,” Jay Newton-Small wrote for Time Swampland.
The buzz about the impending shutdown has certainly been less noticeable this time around. Are people in Washington getting fed up with hearing the same story over and over again? Has the public decided the frequent talk of shutdown are political posturning and empty threats?
What do you readers think? Are you worried about a government shutdown this time? Do you think it will happen? Or is it just saber-rattling from politicians trying to inspire worry?
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 07, 2011 at 12:19 PM29 comments
Firing a federal employee might be hard, but it's not impossible and managers should not avoid the pink slips when difficult workers call for it, according to an expert.
In a presentation at the American Management Association in Crystal City, Va., Stewart Liff, a human resources management expert and former fed with more than 30 years in government, gave a couple of pointers on how to deal with “problem people.”
Few managers are eager to truly take on a difficult employee, Liff said. He cited the findings of a survey that polled 14,000 federal employees. Asked how likely is management to deal with a problem employee, 87 percent of the surveyed employees said “not likely.” And the responses provided by the supervisors themselves were even worse: 91 percent replied they were “not likely” to deal an employee performing poorly.
Managers need to realize that “if you don’t deal with the bottom 10 percent in your organization, the top 10 percent gets frustrated and leaves. People want to be part of a winning organization,” Liff said. “If the government would change its culture in terms of poor performers or misconduct, that would do more for government performance than anything else”
Most employees don’t want to see a coworker do virtually nothing while they, themselves, “are busting their hump and both get the same appraisals and the same bonus,” Liff said.
“It’s so critical in government that we deal with problem people,” he stressed, “and by the way, it’s no different in the private sector; they deal with problem people that drive everyone in their organization crazy as well.”
The first step to dealing with a problem employee is identifying who he or she is, which should be easy because “everyone in an organization knows who that is,” Liff said. Occasionally, the employee in question is unaware of being perceived a problem, but usually a meeting with a manager is all it takes.
Oftentimes, the government tends to “promote out or move around” difficult people, Liff said, without dealing with the actual problems.
"What I suggest to you effective immediately,” he told the audience of government HR professionals and managers, “is stop moving people around and start dealing with it. The first [step] is the toughest but once you deal with that, everyone gets the message. Everyone is watching you – no one is stupid. If they see you’re not serious, they’re not going to treat you seriously.”
Managers should also use the probationary period because it’s “the best tool you’ve got, and it’s a lot easier to get rid of someone during the probation than afterward,” Liff said. But managers should not wait until the very last day of the probationary period to deal with a problem, he stressed.
Taking a strong stance is key when it comes to terminating an employee. But because of the fear of litigation, many managers tend to cower in those situations and imagine a worst case scenario.
But the worst case scenario is “not nearly as bad as you think,” Liff pointed out. Of every 100 federal employees who get fired, only 20 decide to appeal, he said. Of those 20 who appeal, they either go to the Merit Systems Protection Board or arbitration where 40 percent normally settle, Liff said.
“Your success rate before the MSPB is generally 80-85 percent, which means maybe two people [out of 10] get their job back,” he noted. “With arbitration, the success rate is not as good; it’s about four people out of a hundred who get their job back.”
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Nov 02, 2011 at 12:19 PM15 comments
Just in time for Halloween comes a survey that reveals what Americans believe are the “scariest” jobs – from the hazardous to the potentially humiliating.
The nationwide survey -- conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder -- polled more than 4,380 full-time workers from the private sector, ages 18 and over. The results – interesting, for lack of a better word.
It may not come as a surprise that death-defying jobs ranked high on the list. The majority of survey participants chose bomb squad technician as America’s scariest job, followed by high-rise window washer and those in the armed forces. Miner, police officer and firefighter also earned the dubious honor of ranking among the top 10 scariest jobs.
However, two professions on this list might raise an eyebrow or two. Participants listed stand-up comedians as having jobs that got heart rates going, and said high school teachers have scarier jobs that stunt persons or politicians.
When asked what frightens them in their own work, the majority (13 percent) of those polled said pay cuts keep them on edge. Nine percent said their workload scares them, and the same percentage said presenting in front of others gave them the chills. Only 3 percent stated their boss was the scare factor at work.
Top 15 scariest jobs in America:
1. Bomb squad technician
2. High-rise window washer
3. Armed forces
5. Police officer
6. Alaskan crab fisher
9. High school teacher
10. Cemetery worker
12. Stand-up comedian
13. Animal control
14. Stunt person
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Oct 31, 2011 at 12:19 PM0 comments
Good news if you are an IT professional and know your way around mobile technologies, data access, social media and cybersecurity. A new report says those fields are currently fueling IT hiring – and pushing starting salaries higher, in the private sector anyway.
The recently released Salary Guide from Robert Half Technology shows that access to increasing amounts of data and growing online collaboration in business are also areas with a spiked demand for professionals with the technical knowhow.
Mid- and senior-level IT professionals are repordedly most in demand, particularly those who are able to discuss business strategy as they are working with complex systems and software, according to the report. Areas that are currently experiening the most active hiring of IT professionals include healthcare, professional services, high tech, solar and nonprofit.
The report also found that starting salaries have increased in several IT-related areas:
• Mobile media: Increased use of smart phones and tablets is creating a bigger demand for those who know how to create content for the small screen. As a result, starting salaries for mobile applications developers are expected to go up 9.1 percent over 2010 levels to a range of $85,000 to $122,500.
• Data deluge: Now that there is more data than ever, businesses are looking for those who can gather and organize all the information. Some of the most in-demand positions are business intelligence analysts, who will see a 6.3 percent increase in average starting salaries to a range of $87,750 to $123,500.
• IT threats: The fast-evolving threat landscape has created a need for digital defenders of data and networks, especially in the banking and healthcare sectors. Starting salaries for cybersecurity analysts are expected to increase 6 percent to a range of $89,000 to $121,500.
• Online collaboration: With more companies turning to internal social media to foster collaboration and online learning comes a greater need for software developers. The base compensation for software developers is expected to rise 6.5 percent next year to a range of $70,000 to $111,000.
"The demand for professionals who can help companies take advantage of new technologies, such as mobile media or popular collaboration tools, is outpacing the supply in some cases," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "This has resulted in higher starting salaries within certain specialty areas."
These figures all pertain to private industry, while the federal workforce is facing freezes and cuts. Are you seeing demand in agencies for certain skill sets even so? Or are agencies just trying to cope with the resources they have? Share your observations in the comments.
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:19 PM0 comments
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is probably one of the most-asked interview question, whether you are in the private sector or work for the government. But those hiring IT professionals should look to update their interview repertoire with some new questions that better identity the best candidate. Here are seven questions recruiters in both sectors should ask in an interview to help them find the best techie, according to Robert Half Technology’s Salary Guide.
1. What do you know about our agency and why do you want to work here?
People who are truly interested in the job will take the time to research a potential employer and not just regurgitate easily-available facts. The right person will also know how he or she can make an impact on the organization.
2. I see you know [insert skill]. Please explain how you have used this in your job.
Some candidates exaggerate their skills and expertise in applying for job. Asking interviewees for specific examples of how they used a given claimed ability will help identify the ones who really can do what they claim.
3. What did you like or dislike most about a specific product or kind of technology?
This can help a recruiter understand better what a candidate knows about a certain technology or product. Does he or she know it well enough to identify its strengths and weaknesses? If so, he or she probably has the relevant expertise.
4. What is the most interesting IT project you have worked on?
Hiring managers want to know if the candidate will match with the job they are trying to fill. The answer to this question will give you a sense of what candidates like and what motivates them.
5. What made you stay at your last job?
Candidates are often asked why they left their job, so they might already have rehearsed answers. But when asked a slightly different – and unexpected -- question, candidates might provide more honest responses.
6. What is your least favorite work environment?
Hiring managers not only want to ensure they get the right candidate with the right skills but that the new recruits would thrive in the new work culture.
7. Tell me about a failure or mistake you made on the job?
Look for a candidate who is willing to admit he or she made a mistake and then learned from it. This could be critical in IT where mistakes are sometimes made in order to solve problems.
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:19 PM0 comments
There’s no doubt about it: Mobility has emerged as one of the hottest topics in federal IT. At the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., government leaders stressed the need to embrace mobile technologies, especially in times of economic duress, as a way not only to save money but to push federal innovation to another level.
As agencies look to be on the frontlines of innovation, they also face challenges in how to best implement new technologies, how to change their cultures and and how to correct misperceptions about mobility. And then there are plenty of questions: How do you build trust in an ever-expanding interconnected world? How do you best manage a mobile workforce? How can a mobile workforce best do its job and get the tools it needs? The consensus at the ELC seems to be: evolve or perish. In an ever-evolving digital era, no one can afford to be left behind.
Here are just some of the most interesting quotes about mobility overheard at the ELC:
“We must move into a mobile world. For the person who asked the question ‘is mobile more productive than nonmobile?’ Well, look at snow days -- [with mobility], you can work on a snow day. I wouldn’t spend any more time debating whether mobile is more productive.”
-Jim Williams, former commissioner, General Services Administration, senior vice president, Daon
“We’ve seen in the last four years an 8,000 percent growth in data bits.”
-Jeff Mohan, executive director and Networx program officer, AT&T Government Solutions
“Most of the stuff we do routinely could be done better with mobile [technologies],”
-Blair Levin, communications and society fellow, Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program
”If I had to call something a ‘killer app,’ I’d call mobile commerce that.”
-Dr. David Metcalf, senior researcher and developer, Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida
The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder app "has gotten incredible visibility because it is evidence-based, because it is an effective tool, and it shows what we can do when we embrace mobility applications.”
-Roger Baker, CIO, Veterans Affairs Department
“When we moved from our old building from the GSA headquarters from 1800 F Street in downtown D.C. to our temporary space, we got rid of about 240 tons of paper. That represents about 75 or 80 percent of the total amount of paper we had in the building for the people to move.”
-Casey Coleman, CIO, General Services Administration
“You live in a place where they offer you an iPad as a pilot and then they won’t let it connect to anything, so [you] lovingly refer to it as a ‘Whypad.’”
-David Wennergren, deputy chief information officer, Defense Department
Posted by Camille Tuutti on Oct 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM1 comments