Young feds want to be heard, not ignored

Editor's note: This is the first of two articles on federal efforts to hire and retain younger workers.

Young federal employees don't have it easy. They feel isolated. Their good intentions are interpreted as brash. Those are some of the observations that a panel of young federal employees shared July 27 at the Excellence in Government conference in Washington, D.C.

From those employees, who were introduced as the best and the brightest in the federal government, the lesson for hiring managers was this: If you hire me then ignore me, I'm going to leave.

Asked what could cause her to start looking for another job, Andrea Fisher, a 2004 Presidential Management Fellow at the Internal Revenue Service, said she would leave "if I feel that I'm not valued and not heard."

The panelists, selected to represent a new generation of federal employees, said they enjoy working for the public good. They like the balance between work and home life that they believe they can have as federal employees. They prefer working in an open, collaborative environment, which is not what they find in many federal offices. They also want managers who are willing to spend time with them and open career doors for them.

"I believe in our mission," said Fisher, who works in the IRS' Exempt Organizations Division. "We regulate charities. We stop those who are poisoning the well of our nation's charities and disillusioning people from giving to those organizations."

Having a balanced work life as a federal employee is compensation for a lower salary, said Sonali Korde, a senior technical adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Asia and the Near East. "If it was all about money," she said, "I would work for a private-sector firm, but I would have no life."

Adrienne Spahr, an analyst at the Government Accountability Office who previously worked at an engineering consulting company, agreed. "Having time to go to the gym is important to me," she said.

Korde said that her move from the private sector to government has been mostly positive, but the degree to which politics affects federal employees' day-to-day work has surprised her.

"The hardest thing is understanding the bureaucracy, understanding the protocols, the nuances of dealing with people," she said. "In the private sector, you're encouraged to be a little brash. You're encouraged to take more risks."

The panel of young federal workers said they prefer managers who help them avoid missteps and share what they know. Megan Quinn, an information management specialist who works on the chief information officer's architecture team at the Environmental Protection Agency, said she appreciates managers who are willing to tell her when she has violated unspoken rules. For example, she appreciates the manager who told her, "You cross your arms in meetings, and people think you are not listening."

Asked to describe her ideal federal manager, Fisher said, "I want to work with someone who is not afraid to do things in a new way. I want to work for someone whom I admire, who teaches me things every day."

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group