Survey reveals discontent with pay-for-performance plans

Federally Employed Women poll finds respondents largely dissatisfied with pay-for-performance personnel systems

By an overwhelming majority, respondents to a Federally Employed Women (FEW) survey said they were largely dissatisfied with government attempts to replace the General Schedule with pay-for-performance personnel systems.

By about a 2-to-1 ratio, FEW members who responded to the survey said they felt the benefits of the multiple pay-for-performance systems were far outweighed by the drawbacks, FEW said in a Jan. 7 statement.

“While they (respondents) concurred that there were some beneficial reasons, in theory, to support these types of systems, current attempts in the federal government to implement them have been woefully inadequate, according to the survey results,” the group said.

By far, the biggest criticism about a pay-for-performance personnel system is that managers are given too much discretion in evaluating employees when they have not been fully trained, the report said. In many cases respondents reported that supervisors simply rated all their employees as “average” because they did not have the training or expertise to adequately document different levels of performance. This average rating meant that employees would be lucky to receive a salary increase higher than the cost-of-living increase for that year, the report said.

Favoritism was another concern frequently cited by FEW members. Too often, they said, a good rating depended not on whether employees did the job, but if the manager liked them, the report said.

As a safeguard, FEW said the Office of Personnel Management should install an independent board of personnel experts to review evaluations that are appealed by employees. The appeals should not be heard and reviewed by the same agency that wrote the employee review, FEW said.

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Reader comments

Wed, Jan 20, 2010

Further comment back to "M" regarding coddling, etc.--Yes, I agree with most of what was said in that posting. But it really applies to men as well as women--the poor supervisors all too often play favorites. In my environment, I've heard numerous times the comments from co-workers that the reason someone (male or female) got promoted was he/she planned parties; it's not uncommon for people to say "HIM?" or "HER?" when a promotion is announced. And I've had good and horrible supervisors of both sexes. The most recent additions, to opposite ends of my list, were a male supervisor who was bipolar and acted like someone with severe PMS; and a female who was professional, friendly and conscientious in seeing to it that everyone on her "team" was involved. In the past, I also had a female "rater" who was and is well known as "_itch" (insert letter from either end of alphabet), who wouldn't even say hello in the hall--unless you happened to be someone higher up who could do something for her career. Then, it would be big-time suck-up kissy kissy. There are good and bad of both sexes. The GS system is not perfect; but for the most part, it was designed to try to limit abuse. In contrast, the National Screw the Personnel System--NSPS--was designed to permit it.

Fri, Jan 15, 2010 Janet W

In response to M, it is interesting that the two people in my immediate group of two women and 31 men who do NOT like NSPS are male, they now have to do real work like the rest of us and they whine about it like babies with colic. As far as family issues, you are right, we do have to take care of the kids because you are not able to, you just like the brag you have them. While there are some women who made it up the ranks due to tokenism and other reasons, there are a lot more male buddies whom the good old boy GS system promoted over people who can do the work because they were buddies. No, the NSPS system is not the problem, it is people who are the problem and it does not matter if it is the good old boy GS system or the NSPS system. And that problem is in any endeavor where people are making choices about other people.

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 M Reston, VA

To the man with female co-workers, your experience doesn't match mine. Also, your argument does not address why women like the system less in the aggregate. I would add there is always a "hero" out to rescue damsels in distress, even if they did it to themselves.I worked with a supervisor (not mine) who prided himself in coddling underperforming females and praising them publically at every turn regardless of their lack of input. Sound familiar. I'll bet there are hardworking women who will agree with me. Their progress is made harder by the reality.

Thu, Jan 14, 2010

I am a man, I have female co-workers and associates, and regarding the comments from "M" about women not working as hard as men: WHAT RUBBISH!! The women I work with and around do their part to the same expectations as the men. The big reason that everyone I know (both men and women) despises NSPS as an alleged "pay for performance" system is that what it most effectively does is allow rewards for favorites. The criticisms related in the article are all true; supervisors are not adequately trained or even permitted to be able to provide honest and professional assessments. In my workplace, quotas (never acknowledged, but definitely enforced) are applied to the ratings, and many deserving people get shorted. Favorites tend to get their numbers inflated, so that even when the "pay pool" people who have no knowledge of the employee cut/"level" the rating, that employee still winds up on the plus side. Instead of making any genuine improvements, NSPS has permitted and encouraged a continuing degradation of ethics. It is a dishonest system which merits no respect and deserves to die.

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 Editor

EDITOR's NOTE: To M, your earlier comment was posted. You can see it below.

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