Get a Life

By Judith Welles

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Get a Life!: The perfect storm

A war in two countries, an economic free-fall, and now swine flu.  And hurricane season has not yet begun. It’s almost like the biblical plagues. A perfect storm of challenges and responsibility is stretching a new administration and employees in many federal agencies.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was already engaged in disbursing and monitoring some of the stimulus funding to the health care system. In many states, local governments are hard-pressed to sustain funding to health care facilities. Now the CDC is tackling the heart of its mission, protecting the health of Americans from a swine flu outbreak that began in Mexico. 

The strengths and talents of federal employees are being called to multiple tasks in ways not seen in recent years. To top it off, new leadership is still arriving to administration positions, including secretary of health and human services. 

But absent leaders are not holding back any needed efforts. CDC is moving aggressively ahead on its mission with an acting director, senior staff and dedicated federal employees. 

While it is still early, it may be useful to anticipate the needs of federal managers and employees facing so many new challenges. Research from the University of Michigan, to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, points to the importance of social support within an organization and regular feedback to employees in times of challenge. 

"There is such a thing as too much stretch and too much challenge for individuals -- the key is figuring out what the optimal level of challenge is for each individual," professor Scott DeRue said.
Managers can take a number of steps to help employees avoid the negative effects of strenuous job challenges. Simply taking into account how an employee perceives a new challenge can influence the outcome. Establishing formal and informal support systems, such as peer discussion, is also important.

Even though the challenges are serious, experts advise keeping your sense of humor, sharing a laugh when you can to maintain some balance and perspective.  

Posted by Judith Welles on Apr 28, 2009 at 12:12 PM


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