Family-unfriendly

I'm really ticked off by the findings of a new Office of Personnel Management

study that says federal managers are not carrying out the family-friendly

policies of the Clinton administration.

The study maintains that many federal managers aren't supportive of family-friendly

policies and don't approve requests by feds for things such as family and

medical leave, employee- assistance programs, part-time employment, flexible

work schedules, referral services for child and elder care, telecommuting,

fare subsidies, job sharing, child care centers and leave banks.

Although the report is disturbing, I'm not surprised. The idea behind

creating a family-friendly environment is to enable workers to balance their

home and work lives. It's impossible for working parents to perform their

jobs with enthusiasm if their supervisor always gives them a hard time when

they ask for time off to tend to family responsibilities.

In the private sector, employers try to keep employees happy by creating

a family-friendly workplace. The objective is to retain employees and enable

them to be productive. That helps a company's bottom line, and that's how

the performance of private-sector managers is measured.

In the federal government, there is no similar yardstick. Federal managers

aren't as concerned about their staffs' morale as they should be because

often, there's no incentive for them to be concerned. That's not true in

all federal workplace settings, of course, but it's quite prevalent. Many

federal managers run their organization with an iron hand and have little

regard for employee attitudes. They're very good at blaming their employees

for anything that goes wrong and are adept at covering their backsides.

OPM recommends that agencies try to increase the use of family-friendly

programs by showing managers and supervisors how the initiatives can benefit

their agencies; developing measurement tools for assessing the effectiveness

of programs; and increasing manager and supervisor participation in the

programs.

Although OPM's recommendations will help, it's sad to see the agency

focusing on the trees and not the forest. Why should federal managers have

to be trained to understand that family-friendly initiatives improve employee

morale and have a positive impact on agency performance? Are they morons

or what? Why not evaluate federal managers by how supportive they are of

family-friendly programs and accurately measure their support?

If federal managers are told that their performance will be measured

by how accommodating they are of their employees' family needs, I guarantee

that you'll see a change in attitude real fast. It's unfortunate that this

type of remedy has to be employed, but government doesn't work like the

private sector.

—Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus

column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net.

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