How to Avoid a Sexual Harassment Claim

Nobody wants to spend time with their agency’s legal staff to deal with a mess that could have been avoided (see “How to Stay Out of Your Lawyer’s Office”). One of those messes is being involved in a sexual harassment claim.

So, what do you do? You start by acknowledging that as an executive, you set the tone for your workplace. You treat each member of your staff with respect and treat them fairly and equally.

Not only do you not engage in unwelcome behaviors, you understand that… (for more, click here).

What other ” straightforward suggestions for the workplace” would you have to help your fellow employees and agency leadership prevent sexual harassment?

Google Memo Completely Misses How Implicit Biases Harm Women

Workplace biases are back in the national conversation, thanks to the recent memo by a Google employee. The memo’s author challenges the company’s diversity policies, arguing that psychological differences between men and women explain why fewer women work in tech.

He also minimizes the effect that unconscious biases have on women in the workplace. Even though most of us believe that we value others equally and don’t discriminate, research shows that our unconscious beliefs show up in our actions. (For more, click here.)

How have you seen the concept of implicit bias influence your workplace? Which of the examples cited most impacted your understanding of the way it can play out in your organization?

Women Still Underrepresented in the Highest-Paid Federal Jobs

A significant number of women have climbed the career ladder to better paying federal jobs over the last decade, but men still occupy a disproportionate number of the most lucrative executive branch positions, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management.

As of March 2017, men made up 53.7 percent of the federal workforce, but held 66.3 percent of the jobs paying $150,000 or more, an analysis by Government Executive found. There was a positive correlation between income level and male representation in every Cabinet-level agency.

The analysis used data from OPM’s FedScope portal and broke down the more than 1.7 million white-collar employees working at Cabinet agencies by department, income and gender. (For more, click here.)

Which of the data analyses conducted by the authors do you find most interesting, or most troubling? Do you think they represent the gender distribution in leadership at your agency?

I Do Solemnly Swear That I Will…

People in the private sector do not take an oath of office when they get a job. They get an offer, report to work, and that’s it.

For federal employees it is different. Reading so many articles about the inauguration that refer to the president-elect taking the oath of office on the 20th of January got me thinking about oaths and what they mean.

I have taken that oath of office as a civil service employee. Raising your right hand and swearing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” is not something most people take lightly. It is a solemn oath and it means something to most people who take it.

The president becomes a federal employee by taking an oath prescribed by Article 2, Section 1, of the US Constitution. It says “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

 Judges, members of the House and Senate, political appointees, the military, and other federal employees take oaths of office that are required by Article VI of the Constitution, which says “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The Constitution does not prescribe the actual text of the Article VI oaths. For federal civil service employees, the oath is set forth by law in 5 U.S. Code § 3331, which reads as follows:
 “An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.””

The oath is relatively straightforward, but what does it mean? (For more, click here.)

Did any of the information in this article surprise you? Did it make you think any differently about your oath of office?


No Time to Wait: Building a Public Service for the 21st Century

In case after case, ranging from ensuring cyber safety to protecting the nation’s borders, the federal government faces profound problems in making government work for the American people. And in case after case, these problems share a common root cause: the federal government’s human capital system is fundamentally broken. The more complex and wicked problems become, the more government needs smart leaders with the skills to solve them. But the current system, too often, has become trapped in processes that keep leaders from leading.

There is no time to wait. The nation’s problems are too urgent. We need to build a human capital system that meeds the needs of the nation’s 21st century government and we need to start now.

What the federal government most needs, we believe, is… (For more, click here.)

Do you agree with the authors of this report? Which area do you believe most attention? Do you have other human capital ideas that would help your organization solve the problems facing them as they try to accomplish their mission?

Should the Government Fire More People and How Should They Do It?

Does the government fire enough people? Does it deal effectively with poor performers? Is the disciplinary and adverse action process effective?

At the risk of offending a few folks, I have to say the answer to all three questions is probably no. The government does not fire a large percentage of its employees in a typical year. The data is available in OPM’s excellent Fedscope tool. In Fiscal 2016, the number fired was 10,519. At the end of fiscal 2016 the government had 2,097,038 employees, so roughly 1 in 200  or 0.5% of employees were fired. If we look only at permanent employees, 9,579 of 1,951,334 employees were fired (1 in 204 or 0.49%). The VA fired 2,575 employees (1 in 145 or 0.69 percent) in FY2016.

Direct comparisons to the private sector are not easy, but if we compare the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) “layoff and discharge” rate we see that the private sector lays off or fires about 1.2 – 1.3 percent of employees. Government rates (adding in the small number of RIFs as well) are much lower than that of the private sector. However, the private sector numbers are lumping layoffs and discharges together, most likely because the line between those is often blurred. Companies often characterize removals as layoffs, while the government does not.

It is important to note that firing people is not the only measure of how agencies and companies deal with poor performance and misconduct. For more, click here.

Do you agree with Jeff Neal’s core principles for a governmentwide disciplinary/adverse action process? Why or why not? What would you add or subtract from the process?

A Playbook for User-Centered Hiring

A new analysis of government hiring found the “very people they need to make government more responsive to the public are the people driven away by the poor user experience.” …  Hiring managers routinely complain about the lack of qualified candidates for positions. Code for America saw this as a problem because in order for governments to serve the American public in the 21st century, the nonprofit believes governments need to be able to recruit 21st century talent. So, in the fall of 2016, Code for America started investigating ways governments could meet that challenge, by launching a talent initiative to study roadblocks governments face when trying to recruit the best talent for these positions. By interviewing 28 people in all parts of the job seeking process, from those who have a job in government to those considering a job in government, the study identified some common themes preventing good people from applying and getting jobs in government. For more, click here.

Do any of the common themes identified in this article prevent good people from applying and getting in your agency or organization? Would using a user-centered, data-driven approach to hiring help your agency better hire the employees it needs to accomplish its mission? If you were CHCO, how would you apply the information in this article to your organization’s hiring policies?

Government Warms to Continuous Monitoring of Personnel with Clearances

Days after Navy contractor Aaron Alexis murdered 12 people during a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013, Pentagon officials acknowledged they had neglected to follow up on a Rhode Island police report the previous month showing that Alexis, who died in a shootout with police, had complained of hearing voices. That turned out to be just one of many red flags in Alexis’ background that Navy officials and security clearance investigators were not aware of prior to the tragedy. Since then, officials have worked to significantly strengthen the way clearances are granted and managed. For more, click here.

What do you think about using of software programs to more thoroughly vet employees and contractors? What about continuously monitoring those who hold security clearances using social media? Are the such risks to privacy justified by the results?

Job Restructuring as Reasonable Accommodation

An often perplexing and frustrating area of the law for federal managers is disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations. As the law has evolved, so too has the federal workforce and employee medical impairments. More often today, employees–whether veterans suffering from the non-obvious mental impairments associated with post-traumatic stress disorder or aging federal workers plagued with a whole host of physiological maladies–cannot simply be accommodated with wheelchair ramps, ergonomic desk chairs, or adjusted schedules.

With the prevalence of physical and mental impairments in the workplace, it is easy for a federal manager to unknowingly discriminate against a disabled employee by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation. To read this article, click here.

In part 2 of his series on job restructuring, the author explores how job restructuring could affect other employees. To read this follow-up article, click here.

In what ways have you seen your agency meet their reasonable accommodation responsibilities?

Have you seen co-workers asked to shoulder heavier workloads to accommodate a disabled employee? Has such action affected morale or accomplishment of the agency mission? How has management countered any unintended negative effects?

Unconscious Bias and Its Impact on the Workplace

In article, Review of Unconscious Bias, the author states, that “bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences. The types of biases are conscious bias (also known as explicit bias) and unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias). Biases are not limited to ethnicity and race and may exist toward or from any social group.” For more, click here.

How have you seen this play out in your workplace? Has such bias affected the accomplishment of your unit or agency mission? How has it affected you directly?