Letters: Much ado about government pay

Your thoughts on government pay issues

Editor’s note: Federal Computer Week has been inundated with mail about proposed changes to the government’s General Schedule pay system. They have come in the form of letters to the editor and blog posts. We have pulled a sampling of them together. We are continuing to seek comments on the government pay system. You can post to FCW.com’s letters blog — find a link on FCW.com’s Download at www.fcw.com/download — or send an e-mail message to [email protected]

General Schedule system is inherently discriminatory
In regard to “Federal unions attack pay-for-performance efforts,” I take issue with the notion that the General Schedule pay scale is fair and a pay-for-performance system is inherently discriminatory. I believe the opposite to be true.

Where is the fairness in marginal and poor performers receiving the same step increase as a superior performer? Where is the incentive to excel? I certainly don’t know. How is it discriminatory for a superior performer to be given a larger increase in pay than a poor performer? Sounds fair to me.

Unions project a victim mentality, routinely [implying] that management is “out to get ya.” It appears that unions are always striving to protect the least productive among us, while they are not too worried about top performers. The article quoted the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO as saying that pay for performance was based on subjectivity, as if subjectivity is a dirty word. Subjectivity allows a manager to at least strive for fairness, whereas the GS scale is certain to be unfair to top performers.

A vote against pay for performance
Pay for performance sounds like a great idea but only if those that make the decisions are capable of making an unbiased ones.

When I take my car for service, I like to have the best mechanic in the shop work on it. Pay for performance is like that except the person who makes the decision in a government workplace, more often than not, has no concept of the jobs he is rating the personnel on. Federal wages used to be correct because supervisors used to come from the rank and file. People who started in an entry-level position and worked their way through the maze make good managers.

Today, supervisors are no longer chosen for their work experience. They are chosen for “counting the beans,” or keeping the budget objectives. Managerial skills no longer include the ability to look at a job and understand how it is done. I for one do not wish to have my performance rated by an educated idiot who is book smart and street stupid. If my pay is based on how the village idiot feels about me rather than how well I do my job, that causes me a great deal of concern.

The first priority should be to get good management, then focus on employee performance, not the other way around.
Nick Kulp

Pay system is too fair
Although the GS system is not perfect, being unfair is not one of its pitfalls. It is more accurate to say that it is too fair. A pay-for-performance system, if used effectively by effective managers, can reward good performance. But people are not perfect, and in some instances, it will inevitably be unfair. A whole new set of complaints and problems will emerge.

The GS system does not discriminate in any way. The system, and the culture of the federal government, in general, drains incentive and motivation from the workforce. When feds have incentive or motivation to excel, it is due to their personal integrity, passion and desire to serve the American public.

Managers must be able to hire employees who can supply their own incentive and motivation, who can constantly evolve and improve, who want to do well, get along with others and ca
re about the feelings of others, including their supervisors. This is the only way the culture of the government will change.

Subjectivity’s role in measuring performance
A huge part of the problem is that very few positions have measurable, quantifiable performance standards. I know how difficult it is to create measurable performance standards, and I know that most managers — at least the ones I’ve had — are far too busy to try to do it for the number of staff they supervise. However, without them, subjectivity will always play a part in performance reviews, and employees/unions will always have an argument that an employee’s rating was unfair/biased.
David Silberberg

NSPS forces workers into ‘indentured servitude’
In response to “Federal unions attack pay-for-performance efforts,” the National Security Personnel System is being forced down the throats of nonbargaining employees, even though they would be eligible to be in a union. I see NSPS as another way of eliminating the seniority system and forcing the working class into indentured servitude.
Pat Shotwell
Iowa Army Ammunition Plant


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