Federal Coach: Closing the gap between managers and staff at your federal agency

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

The managers and staff of well-run federal agencies are usually on the same page, sharing a common vision and working in sync to carry out government’s policies and provide services to the American people.

But this alignment is sometimes missing, with the leadership and those doing the day-to-day work not seeing eye-to-eye and veering off in different directions.

Sometimes, supervisors may be unable or unwill­ing to properly acknowledge and share staff concerns with top leadership, or not fully understand the nature of the discontent. Agency executives also may be left unaware of what’s happening on the frontlines, issuing policies that risk failure because they aren’t fully informed of how the mission and work is being perceived by the employees. Agency leaders also may miss opportunities to improve the workplace if they are not aware of different challenges facing their staff.

Such situations can obviously lead to dysfunction, unhappiness and decreased employee engagement, resulting in poor performance and bad outcomes, results that no one wants.

If there is a glaring divide at your agency, you need to right the ship. Here are a few options for both senior leaders and frontline supervisors to consider:

Determine if there is a management/employee divide. Knowing whether or not you have a problem is clearly the first and most important step. In some cases, it may be quite obvious. In other instances, it may require use of employee surveys and various other methods of obtaining employee feedback. To start, I suggest looking at your agency’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Staff/Manager Alignment Score that measures gaps between the views of managers and staff on a range of issues. You might also consider hosting periodic brown bag lunches to address your employee’s questions, and you might try managing by walking around and engaging employees to test the waters.

Articulate agency priorities. Too often, managers assume that employees know or understand the reasons why certain policies or approaches are being taken, when in fact they do not. Be sure to make clear through your verbal and written communications how programs and policies relate to the mission of your agency, and how the day-to-day work is part and parcel of accomplishing your goals. It is important for your employees to understand the big picture and how their work fits in.

Create an action plan to improve the workplace. Agencies across government have successfully in­cluded staff, managers, leaders and union represen­tatives in the action planning process through focus groups, trainings and workshops to solicit ideas and garner buy-in. Employees generally are committed to their jobs and want to succeed, and it is important for their voices to be heard and that they are given a sense of ownership. This will inevitably lead to better performance.

Share employee concerns with agency leaders. Your top leaders may not have the same opportunities to gain insight into the daily challenges that employ­ees at your agency face, but as a manager you are uniquely positioned to receive and share important informa­tion on what’s happening at the frontlines. Sharing new employee information regu­larly is a critical part of getting your entire agency onto the same page.

For additional ideas on how to start closing gaps between managers and staff at your agency, I suggest reading a new agency guide by my organization and the IBM Center for The Business of Government, Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Staff/Manager Alignment Scores . Be sure to check out the step-by-step instructions on using those scores to guide improvement.

NEXT STORY: HHS CIO to retire

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.