That Focusing Trick Good Leaders Use to Stay on Task

Public sector leaders often face two conflicting choices:

Choice No. 1: Focus on where I will place my foot for the next step.
Choice No. 2: Focus 10 steps ahead.

On what should leaders concentrate their attention? (To read more, click here.)

How does this apply to your job as an HR practitioner? How have you put into practices the principles in this article?


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?

Effective Management Requires Effective Discipline

In this article, the author states that “Corrective discipline should be the goal is most cases. [Discipline] is not intended to resolve severe or chronic cases of poor performance or misbehavior and to replace punitive actions when necessary. Nevertheless, when the [corrective discipline approach] is applied judiciously and appropriately, time and money can be saved and organizational goals can be enhanced.” For more on this important subject, click here.

Probationary Periods: A Missed Opportunity to Address Poor Performance

In its recently released report on poor performers in Government, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended more effective use of the probationary period to identify and remove individuals who are unlikely to be good performers. GAO recommended that agencies consider doing more to ensure that supervisors have the opportunity to intercede before an individual completes a probationary period and that OPM and possibly Congress consider whether longer probationary periods might be appropriate for some positions[1].

MSPB’s extensive research over the past decade supports these recommendations. In a 2009 survey, we asked proposing and deciding officials for adverse actions whether the individual in question demonstrated during the probationary period that he or she was a good employee. Only 56% of those with knowledge of the individual during that period agreed the individual had shown good signs at that time. Thus, it appears that some of these adverse actions could have been avoided by better use of the probationary period.

We also conducted a survey of supervisors of probationary employees, discussed in our 2005 report, The Probationary Period: A Critical Assessment Opportunity. Of those supervisors who admitted that they would not select the person again if they could do it over, ….

To continue reading this article, click here.


Effective Performance Discussions: Don’t Forget to Look Forward

Much of the guidance on performance evaluation focuses on measurement— developing standards of performance, evaluating performance against those standards, and documenting the results. Performance evaluations matter greatly to employees as a factor in pay decisions and as a lasting reflection of the organization’s valuation of employees’ work contributions. Thus, it is important that they be done carefully rather than casually.

Performance evaluations and performance discussions should not focus exclusively on the past. The purpose of performance evaluation—and the employee-supervisor discussion of an evaluation—is not merely to look back. It is also to look forward—to think about what should be done to sustain or improve performance. Indeed, one of OPM’s warranty conditions for a performance management program is “commitment to… conscientious development of employees.” That look forward should include both performance (What results do we want?) and the person (What skills or support does the employee need to achieve those results?). …

To continue reading this article, click here.

Leaders: “Recognizing” Employees Requires More Than Just Knowing Who Works for You

Results of a 2012 American Psychological Association (APA) survey of working Americans indicate that feeling valued was a key driver of engagement and job performance[1]. For example, among employees who indicated that they were valued, 93% agreed that they were motivated to do their best at work and 88% reported that they felt engaged. In sharp contrast, employees who thought they were not valued indicated agreement levels of only 33% and 38%, respectively, to these same questions about motivation and engagement.

MSPB’s research confirms that appreciation is similarly important to Federal employees and Federal agencies. Our analysis revealed that employees who believed that their effort would result in higher performance and that they would receive recognition for that performance were more likely to perform well[2].

For these reasons, appreciation and recognition for a job well done are more than a matter of courtesy. Unfortunately, the trend in Federal employees’ experience of recognition is not positive, …..

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Help Your Team Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout

Given the current environment in the federal HR world, it is increasingly difficult to manage the demands of work. In this article, Harvard Business Review provides some suggestions that can be employed by both the supervisor and the individual employee.

Help Your Team Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout

What do you think? Which of these recommendations do you think would be helpful in your work environment? Which are unrealistic? What do you think your supervisor would say if you forwarded this article to him/her?



Federal Supervisors: Technically Competent but Managerially Challenged?

25 years of survey trends indicate that employees are still critical of supervisors’ management skills.

Federal supervisors serve a critical role because they are responsible for facilitating the accomplishment of the Federal Government’s missions through the efforts of their employees. Results from 25 years of MSPB’s Merit Principles Survey suggest that the majority of Federal employees are satisfied with their supervisors and respect their technical qualifications. However, they also perceive substantial room for improvement in supervisors’ managerial skills. While employee perceptions are just one indicator of supervisory quality, these perceptions suggest that agencies should continue evaluating whether they are holding supervisors accountable for exercising effective management skills.

One area that employees identified as presenting substantial managerial challenges is performance management. Supervisors are commonly viewed as not dealing effectively with poor performers—only 30 percent of 2005 and 22 percent of 2000 survey respondents gave their supervisors favorable marks on this item. When poor performers aren’t held accountable, it is more difficult for the team to achieve its goals and can have a negative impact on other employees who have to shoulder the extra burden.

Similarly, in 2007, only 49 percent of employees reported that rewards and recognition are based on performance. Although this represented a substantial increase over the first time the question was asked in 1983 (17 percent favorable), the fact that only half of employees saw a link between performance and outcomes could mean that awards provided by supervisors have limited motivational value.

Building trust between employees and their supervisors is another area that appears to need work. This becomes readily apparent in questions regarding employees’ trust of their supervisors in fairly and effectively exercising various personnel authorities (e.g., rating applicants, making selections, setting pay, and taking adverse actions), as seen in Figure 2. Ratings in each of these areas improved slightly compared to 1996, although fewer than 40 percent of employees expressed faith in their supervisors in any of these areas.

As these results show, there has been some progress in employees’ perceptions of supervisors’ managerial ability, yet this improvement has been modest. Given that supervisors accomplish their mission through their employees, it is essential that agencies select, develop, reward, and retain their supervisors based on the supervisor’s ability to effectively manage. Unless employees perceive that they are being managed well, it is highly unlikely that they will perform at their best. Additional longitudinal trends are summarized in the recent MSPB report, The Federal Government: A Model Employer or a Work In Progress?

Reprinted from Issues of Merit, a publication of the Office of Policy and Evaluation, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.