- By Milt x_Zall
- Oct 02, 2000
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
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
—Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus
column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.