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Readers write: Is pay-for-performance harmful or good?

The impending demise of DOD's pay-for-performance system has provoked some strong reactions, and many commenters are not sorry to see it go. They say that pay-for-performance allows managers to play favorites in awarding raises. A few, however, argue that the traditional federal system, basing pay on seniority, provides little incentive for employees to excel.

"MJM" said pay-for-performance is a good concept and could work in government, but would need to be implemented better.

Pay-for-performance would work if we were able to write in all that we do within our job scope, not just our three objectives," MJM wrote. "I was rated below [average] in this system, yet I was the number one performing person [within] my pay pool which is around 200 [personnel]. ... So the system did not work. I still feel the system is a good one yet we need to make changes on how we rate our [personnel] for performance."

Garrett argued that pay-for-performance should stay. "Lets face it, [the] real problem with NSPS and any other pay for performance system is that it marginalizes the unions who can no longer take credit for johnny's raise," Garrett wrote. "Pay for performance is a great idea and has mostly worked. Is there some cronyism? Of course, It also exists under the GS system in who gets promotions...The human element is always going to be present. In the long run the problems caused by a small measure of favoritism cannot compare to those caused by retaining and giving raises to a bunch of dead-weight employees based on longevity."

"Midwestern Taxpayer," using data from the 2009 DOD Green Book, wrote: "In other words, the average DOD civilian is making $89,740 a year. Meanwhile, more than 15,000,000 people are out of work in the United States. What are so many DOD employees complaining about again, please?"

An unsigned commenter complained about bad managers who play favorites. "Half the managers got there as a reward anyway, not because of technical knowledge or people handling abilities and once they are there, it's permanent unless they get promoted upward, which really exacerbates the problem," the commenter wrote. "Although there are probably poor employees everywhere, I think if you look outside of the fat cats inside the Beltway and look at workers in the field activities, you will find a plethora of dedicated, hardworking employees who are the backbone of the federal workforce. It's the overpaid empire builders inside the Beltway that give the federal employee the facade of an overpaid, lazy employee."

Some readers wondered about the practical consequences of rolling back NSPS and moving the employees now in it back into the older system.

"I am in a system where the supervisors were put in NSPS and have received huge salary increases over the last few years but the rest of employees were represented by the unions and stayed in the old system (not by choice)," wrote one anonymous reader. "When NSPS goes away how are they going to reconcile this?"

In other words, the reader adds, some employees advanced significantly while others in the same organization didn't move at all. "If they put them back in the GS system at their current rates of pay it seems unfair to employees who spent the same amount of time but did not even have the same chance for these advancements."

Posted by Michael Hardy on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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