The blended workforce: One identity crisis after another

FCW readers share stories about dealing with the confusion that can ensue when federal and contractor employees work side by side

A former federal official once told the story of attending an interagency meeting at which everyone else who showed up worked for support contractors, not for the agencies they represented. The meeting quickly disbanded because no one had any authority to make decisions.

The good news: At least people were upfront about their affiliations.

That’s not always the case, which is why the Defense Department recently made a rule that requires contractor employees to identify themselves as such in all forms of communication, whether in person, on the phone or in e-mail messages, as reported by Federal Computer Week’s Matthew Weigelt.

Weigelt’s sources speculated that the rule, although well intentioned, could exacerbate tensions between federal and contractor employees. Here’s what readers had to say. Comments have been edited for clarity, length and style.

Upfront and Personal
Years ago, when I was working for a support contractor, I was invited to a big program status meeting on the joint project I was working on. I was one of the first people asked to introduce myself. I gave my name, company and the government office I was supporting. The other contractors followed suit. Later on, someone went to the program manager and complained loudly and long that they never knew that many of the people they were dealing with were contractors. Even though we all wore badges, many of the contractors slipped it in their shirt pocket — probably not intentional, just to keep it out of the way. I believe in being a team, but there is a need to know who you are dealing with and there have to be clear lines of responsibility.
— Liz, Maryland

No Big Deal
Our agency already requires contractors to identify themselves. And although it was expected to cause a ripple in the working relationship, it really hasn't affected anything. A year later, it's business as usual. One advantage is that competing contractors who work in the same bureau are well aware of who they are communicating with, so they do not reveal privileged information to the competition.
— Wassman, Washington, D.C.

Spies Among Us
As a contractor, I support this. Many times I work with people in the government who I think are federal employees but later find out they are contractors working on the inside. These inside contractors have a tendency to take information that you give them and use it to scoop work. I've had this happen before, so my approach is simple. I find out who is truly in government and who is not, and I don't tell the contractors anything unless it is within the scope of work.
— Supportive

What Next?
In the facilities where I’ve worked, the government badges are blue and the contractor badges are green. Contractors identified themselves as such in e-mail and were required to answer the phone with the last four digits of the phone number followed by “contractor.” If given all of that, government personnel still can’t tell the difference, then I’m stumped.
— Anonymous

 

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