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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Workers of the World Unite. Or Not.

Dave Schuler put up a post about incompetence at the FDA and suggests that something should be done. The problem, as always, is just what that something should be. The first comment describes the situation and the problem very well:

DC Loser May 29, 2013 at 8:03 am
I just retired from the civil service after almost 30 years of combined CS and military service. I was a GS-15 manager and seen many personnel rating systems come and go. There is no easy solution to this problem. In really good government organizations, where you have good leadership and high workplace morale, these problems don’t occur. Where they do occur are the places with lousy or nonexistent leadership, rule by fear, favoritism, mid-level managers who are little tyrants, and a workforce in constant fear of petty disciplinary actions or worse. I’ve seen your suggested curve system at work when it was used for officer evaluations in the Air Force. It was a disaster for the unfavored officers (in the USAF, they would be the non-pilots). All the commanders’ favorites got the high ratings, while the ‘barely tolerated’ got the low end of the stick. Needless to say morale went into a nosedive. In my last organization, they went to this rating system where supervisors were supposed to write ‘measurable’ objectives so performance could be quantified. Of course, the gaming began right away and supervisors and workers began to organize their productivity around numbers that were meaningless. For fear that everybody was going to get a high rating, management imposed a distriburted curve rating system that was supposedly illegal. Once again, worker morale went into a nosedive from the cynical manipulation of the system by manangers who wanted to protect their favorites. I have not seen a system that isn’t open to gaming and manipulation.

This second comment tells us why it can't be fixed:

DC Loser May 29, 2013 at 8:19 am
One thing that I’ve seen fierce resistance to by senior and even mid level managers in the CS is a 360 evaluation system, where managers will be rated by their subordinates. I advocated such a system and was pretty much ignored. Senior managers talk all the time about accountability, but they don’t want accountability for themselves.

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