Letter: The trouble with NSPS lies with the raters

Regarding “DOD civilian workers to get performance paychecks tomorrow”: The National Security Personnel System is already very flawed, and it doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure it out. The problem with having NSPS is not NSPS itself. It is who administers the reviews and how they do it.

I just received a Level 3 for what was agreed and justifiably a Level 4 performance with +1 on a couple of objectives. So why did I get a Level 3? That is why there is distrust about this system.

Inexperienced officers should not rate civilians under this system. I spent nearly two hours going over NSPS with a rater who had little knowledge of the impact of not setting aside an appropriate amount of time to write an unbiased review. I explained how that could have been accomplished within the guidelines. I gave the rater my personal copy of the performance management guidelines and tools (SC1940). The rater had not read the publication and was unfamiliar with most of the requirements to include proper documentation and counseling.

The bottom line is that an employee can work extremely hard, volunteer and take on all the responsibility in the world and not be properly rewarded. The rater did not consider what the employee brings to the table by spending off-duty time to acquire an advanced degree. The process of asking for another look is cumbersome, but it has already taken a political twist. Perhaps leaving the Defense Department is the only way.

When managers are military officers, there should not be obvious mistakes, right? I had a higher-level reviewer who wasn't even in my chain of command and who made it through the pay pool panel and all the way back with a final record on me. That is unsatisfactory at best and suggests that perhaps they were more interested in the bottom line. I'd be curious to know how each pay pool panel member was rated and paid.

We had a mock panel for our midyear/interim reviews, in which we did not receive any feedback. It was a total mess. I never received any information back from my midyear counseling, but I was thinking everything would be all right. NSPS was scheduled to go into effect in fiscal 2008 with a specific spiral. But all of a sudden, we are pushing the panic button to start NSPS. The responses were inadequate to facilitate a clear understanding to me and most of the people I've talked to. In fact, most people are still trying to grasp what just happened and the devastating effect on their pay and livelihood.

How can there be loyalty for people to stay in DOD when deceit and lack of effort are what come back to you? NSPS started off with problems. People are humans, not machines, and care must be at the forefront of interaction. In other words, I don't know what you don't tell me. As a "valued employee," I need to see my achievements and the bulk of my hard work and effort to justify what should be.

In my opinion, the pay pool manager should make sure the rater doesn't hurt the employee due to the rater’s lack of knowledge and/or justification. The pay pool manager should make sure the rater does his job, not for the sake of saving money. As you might be able to tell, this happened! Will someone stand up and be straight about this, or is NSPS going to be an "I like you," "I don't like you," "my buddy" kind of system? That is the way it seems.

Let's emphasize the importance of writing a few commandments, "Thou shalt make time," Thou shalt do what is right," "Thou shalt be honest and seek help if needed," and "Thou shalt not sway under undo pressure to do what is wrong." These are important statements that could have an impact on employees’ futures.

The pay pool manager asked for the officer to justify his ratings on a Saturday. As a result, of course, I was told it was difficult when time is a factor. Not a good way to start NSPS. The ratings were a slap in the face for employees who have more than 20 years’ experience and are working in a $30,000 to $50,000 bracket. Don't ask for GS-13 work from a GS-7 and not offer fair compensation. Remember equal pay for equal work?

One thing is certain. This is a good way to deter potential candidates who come work for us. It doesn't matter where the failure occurred; it is an employee’s right to have the right answers. The employee’s livelihood is at stake, and the ability to be rewarded based on performance is supposed to drive motivation. Top officials, please perform an independent audit and get the right facts. People in control of NSPS should ensure that the integrity of the civil service system remains viable.

John L. Wright

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