Management Watch

What’s the future like for CIOs?

I recently attended an event where I heard someone say CIOs’ days are numbered. It wasn’t really news to me: That whole concept of CIOs, particularly in government, having a short lifespan dates back to oh, forever.

When CIO first emerged on the scene, people weren’t exactly agog. They used to say CIO meant Career Is Over. For government CIOs, that statements holds some truth.  While former Justice Department CIO Vance Hitch held his position for nearly a decade, making him the longest-serving CIO in government, the average tenure for CIOs is two years.

The nation’s first U.S. CIO, Vivek Kundra, made it 2.5 years before he threw in the towel and handed over the reins to former Microsoft exec Steven VanRoekel. Others who have passed the two-year marker are VA CIO Roger Baker and DHS CIO Richard Spires, who were both appointed in 2009.

But the notion that CIOs would completely vanish is just rubbish, according to an article on CIOs’ roles and responsibilities may change drastically, but they’ll still be around, the story titled "10 Predictions for What the CIO Role Will Look Like in 2020" points out.

In 2012, CIOs will, for example, not have a traditional IT department. With the march to the cloud and rapid advancements in technology, IT departments will move from being a physical entities that manages cloud services to a cloud service itself, the article notes.

Future CIOs will also see a dip in the number of employees they manage. Instead, the future will usher in more autonomous computing that relies less on human intervention for systems to operate correctly.

To read the rest of the story, head over to

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 04, 2012 at 12:19 PM0 comments

Federal IT pay stagnant, but still higher than industry -- or is it?

Federal IT professionals are far from immune to the belt-tightening in government, as evidenced by a new survey by InformationWeek.

Nextgov reports the pay for federal IT workers stagnated, and even decreased, due to the two-year salary freeze for feds. By polling more than 730 federal IT workers, the survey found that the average compensation for federal IT staff had stayed at $97,000. IT managers, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in their total compensation: from 2011’s number of $125,000 to the current level of $120,000.

The survey also pointed out that those government IT professionals are nonetheless earning more than their industry IT colleagues, who average around $90,000. Those in management positions make around $116,000.

However, previous surveys, such as this one, contradicts the notion that federal IT pros are better compensated than those in the commercial sector.  Robert Half Technology's Salary Guide from October 2011 showed that a new-found focus on big data, cybersecurity and mobility has fueled IT hiring in the private sector, thus pushing starting salaries higher.

The InformationWeek survey cited in Nextgov polled 480 federal IT staffers and 253 federal IT managers.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM22 comments

Lawyer urges feds to follow 'obey-now-grieve-later' rule

The GSA spending scandal prompted federal employees to challenge inappropriate actions and expose misconduct. But a warning comes from a law firm that says workers who refuse questionable orders are committing insubordination, which could put their employment at risk.

“If your supervisor is telling you to do something, you could face suspension or removal if you fail to obey that order, regardless of how ludicrous or improper as it may sound, as long as what you are ordered to do does not constitute a crime” John Mahoney, partner and chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group at Tully Rinckey PLLC, said in a statement.

”Even if you’re ordered to buy a $10,000 hammer, you’re usually better off doing it and then blowing the whistle,” he added.

The Merit Systems Protection Board has determined there’s an exception to this “obey-now-grieve-later” rule. Federal workers are allowed to disobey if the orders are illegal or could cause harm, Mahoney said. And those employees who do end up carrying out dubious orders are also protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

But exposing misconduct does come with some risks, he cautioned.

“In the federal government, employees must obey management’s rules and orders,” Mahoney said. “As hard as it is to obey some orders, it can be even harder to expose how wrong they are because of the risk of retaliation in the form of poor performance evaluations or other adverse actions.”

What do you think of Mahoney's advice? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to obey first, then complain later? And have you seen this rule stop federal employees from exposing wrongdoing?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM7 comments

Part II: Things to never tell your boss (or your employee)

Judging from the reader comments on 10 things feds should never tell the boss, there are plenty of inappropriate remarks uttered by managers and employees alike. Here’s a sampling of some of the best of the worst that our readers added:

"If you don't like it, quit or retire.”

“I really don't like learning new things.”

"I'm not smart enough to work on those new computers. I shouldn't have to do that task." (Said by a 2210 series GS-12)

"I like being married and for more than just the sex.”

"You will only do EXACTLY what I tell you to do!!"

“I cannot give you the job because you don't have a college education.” (Said by a manager who had only a high school diploma.)

“That task is not on my list of priorities -- get someone else to do it.”

"I know women get emotional.” (Said by a manager.)

“I have rehearsal with the agency choir.” (Used as an excuse to avoid doing a mandatory report required for employee's position.)

My favorite comment, however, tied into the recent overspending debacle: “What about: ‘I scheduled our next off-site [meeting] in Vegas and used a GSA contract to save money.’ Or maybe: ‘My wife said it was OK.' Thanks -- I'll be here all week.”

Have heard other comments that top these? Keep ‘em coming!

Posted on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:19 PM0 comments

3 ways for young feds to impress the boss

You’ve just joined the government and want to impress your manager. But how? Dressing to the nines and impeccable manners will get you far, says business etiquette specialist Pamela Eyring. “Having great business etiquette gets you noticed by your supervisor -- in a positive way,” said Eyring, who spent more than 20 years in government and served as the first civilian chief of protocol at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Eyring now serves as president and director of The Protocol School of Washington. Here she shares her top three tips for how young, up-and-coming feds can make a lasting impression on their superiors.

Class it up

“Understanding that you’re young, you don’t have to dress like older people,” she said. “But you have to look mature, especially in the government.”

Eyring suggests you eliminate any kind of weekend attire from your work wardrobe, and for women that means no cleavage-baring blouses. Showing too much skin is “the No. 1 complaint, in government and private industry,” she said. “Young women especially are showing way too much cleavage. That’s fine for the weekend if you want to do that, but in business, we don’t want to look at your chest.”

Skirts should be similarly modest, to the top of the knee, or longer, she said. And keep the footwear professional too. “Flip-flops are too casual and too noisy, and they don’t give an appearance of professionalism,” she said.

Her No. 1 tip for young women to look more professional is to wear something with a collar. “I always tell women, if you put on a jacket or blouse with a collar, it gives you more power immediately,” Eyring said.

For men, however, the main culprit in poor dress is a disheveled, slouchy appearance: dirty, cracked shoes or wrinkled dress shirts. Young men also tend to wear suit jackets or sports coats that are too big, hanging down to their knuckles, Eyring said. “Very rarely can you just pull [suits] off the rack and wear them,” she said, suggesting men have their suits tailored to perfection.

Another tip for young employees is to mirror dress after a mentor or a boss who’s had a longer career. “Step it up, she said. “I always liked to dress one step ahead of [superiors] because when you look more professional, you feel more professional. And professional dress gets you noticed if you’re coming up in the workforce.”

Check yourself

How you greet a person and shake hands, eye contact and posture all tie into presenting yourself in the best light possible. “When you’re talking to someone, you should give eye contact at least 40 to 60 percent of the time,” Eyring said. Young people often haven't mastered the art of making eye contact, she said, either staring too intensely or looking away from the person for too long at a time.

Handshakes matter too. “You used to see a lot of young men who had been taught by their mothers, especially in the South, to let the woman offer her hand first, and then just shake her fingertips very gently and softly,” she said. “But today in business, women and men shake hands the same way: Web to web, firm grip -- then let go.”

When it comes to body language, your posture is as important as your handshake. When greeting and meeting someone, make sure your shoulders face the other person’s, Eyring said. Also, if you’re sitting down and someone greets you, stand up so you can give the other person better eye contact.

Manage your time

Showing up to work on time, if not early, is just a basic necessity, but many young professionals fail to realize the importance of time management, Eyring said. “‘If you can’t be timely to work, your superior is not going to put you on a level of a higher position,” she said.

Time management is not just about being punctual but how you use your time during work hours. Using your personal cell phone “over and over and over again” is a no-no, Eyring said, and if you have to take a call make sure to step out in the hallway on your break to do so. “They didn’t hire you to talk on the phone and check your Facebook; you were hired to be there and work,” she said.

And if you complete your tasks before deadline, “don’t leave early, go find more work to do!” Eyring said, suggesting employees ask their managers what else they can do instead of “just sitting there and waiting.” Showing that you’re eager to learn is also key to get a manager’s attention and show you’re serious about your work, she said.

Discipline in time management and consistency is expected of employees, although “it might not be in your orientation,” Eyring said. “These are the things that [managers] watch and what they want.” 

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM1 comments

11 things feds should never tell the boss

There are certain things you should never tell your boss. You’re late and disheveled because you knocked back a few last night. You missed a deadline because you were glued to a reality-TV marathon. You failed to show up to a meeting because you just didn’t feel like going.

In many cases, it’s better to just bite your tongue than to overshare with your boss, especially if you're a federal employee and under more scrutiny than ever. Avoiding those awkward foot-in-mouth moments is not only a must but it can end up saving you a lot of trouble -- even your job.

So what are some real-life examples of remarks feds have made to their bosses that they shouldn’t have? I asked Diane Hansen Denholm, former fed and current vice president at consulting firm North Highland, to share some of the off-limits remarks she had heard throughout the years. Together with her team she came up with 11 examples that perfectly illustrate occasions where silence would have been golden.

1. “You know I’m eligible to retire.”

2. “That’s not in my job description.”

3. “I did a pretty good job this year; here is my write-up for my monetary award”

4. “I really don’t want to go to that meeting, can’t you handle it by yourself?”

5. “Congress doesn’t really need to know this stuff.”

6. “I’m not sure where I got that data.”

7. “I prefer to work alone; I’m not good at working on teams”

8. “I can’t meet your deadline.”

9. “I have always had a crush on you.” (Said during a negative performance review.)

10. “I know you’re a woman…”

11. “I don’t know why you need that information.”

What are some other inappropriate comments you’ve heard as a manager? Have you heard your colleagues say something they shouldn’t? Share your stories in the comments. Here, oversharing is welcome.


Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM59 comments

Government workers get an attaboy

Federal employees are finally getting catching a break from the anti-government rhetoric and getting some recognition for the work they do.

More than half-dozen senators have pledged to honor public servants from federal, state and local governments during Public Service Recognition Week, held May 6 to May 12.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a resolution to honor government employees, and his pledge was co-signed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

Never heard of PSRW? Well, it’s been around since 1985 and was launched by the Public Employees Roundtable as a nationwide initiative to recognize government employees for their contributions. The coalition includes more than 30 Washington-based organizations, including federal executive boards, industry partners and other associations focused on public service.

“This week is about saying thank you to our nation’s public servants who have dedicated their careers and their lives to helping others,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “As a nation, we hold our public servants accountable to high standards, and this week is about expressing our gratitude to the millions of Americans across the country who work with honor on our behalf.”

Top government officials have also been involved in PSRW throughout the years. OPM head John Berry, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, just to mention a few, served as PSRW honorary co-chairs in 2011.

Not only does PSRW give that rare nod to feds, but it also aims to inspire a new generation of public servants. But most important than ever: The event strives to improve the perception and morale of federal workers and other public servants, which is particularly important in the wake of the GSA spending scandal.

The nationwide celebration will take place in form of ceremonies, information fairs, parades and other events. If you’re in the D.C. area, make sure to check out the PSRW’s website for information about ongoing events. Those happenings run the gamut from D.C.’s Funniest Fed Competition to a Public Service Town Hall.


Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM2 comments