'Average' employees, and calculating retirement

A Reader Writes:

I work for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. Some years back, NIST stopped using the GS pay scale and now use a pay-for-performance plan with four categories: ZP (scientific and engineering), ZA (administrative and financial), ZT (technicians) and ZS (support staff).

They use a scoring system to evaluate employees on a scale from 1 to 100. Your score is where you fit in with other workers and how your percentage (raise) is determined.

During the past couple of years, upper management has insisted that all scores average out to 80. That means if you have all good employees, you can't rank all of them good or the scoring won't average at 80. That leads to devaluing some employees' scores so that the average figures out to 80.

I don't believe this is the way the system is supposed to work. If you have good employees you should be able to rate them as you see fit. You shouldn't have to juggle scores to arrive at an average of 80.

Supposedly, they started this new system so we could offer more competitive pay. I would like you to check into this and see if they are abusing the system or even breaking the law.

Milt Replies:

In any pay system that is designed to reward superior performance, you always have to decide who's average and who is outstanding. The numbers are just a means to an end.

If a manager is asked to grade 10 employees, someone is going to get the top score of 100, and everyone else will get lower scores. Those who get lower scores may be really good performers, but they're just not as good as the person who gets 100. There isn't enough money to pay everyone as if they're outstanding, so the money must be rationed, according to the rankings.

I don't know if this is "fair," but that's the real world. Scarce commodities -- in this case money—have to be rationed. There just isn't enough around to pay everyone handsomely!

A Reader Writes:

When a member of the military retires after 20 years, they begin drawing on federal retirement and they are allowed to come in to civil service without penalty to that retirement.

We hear fairly often that some agencies are having trouble filling vacancies especially in the newer transportation-related jobs and homeland security. Why doesn't the government allow Civil Service Retirement System retirees who would like to come back in to service the same option enjoyed by retired military: return to service under the Federal Employment Retirement System without penalty to their CSRS pension?

Milt Replies:

Probably because it's against the law, and the Office of Personnel Management hasn't asked for a change in the law.

A Reader Writes:

Is there a Web site that I can go to that will allow me to calculate what my annuity would be if I retired on a certain date and under certain conditions? I am in the Civil Service Retirement System.

Milt Replies:

Yes. FirstGov for Seniors has a Federal Employees Retirement Calculator at www.seniors.gov/fedcalc.html.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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