By Deborah J. Hopkins, June 16, 2021

Just when we thought Schedule F was gone forever, a recent report Increasing Accountability in the Civil Service (from some of the same minds behind Schedule F) is once again pushing for Federal employment to be at-will. The good news for Feds is this push is coming from outside the administration. The bad news for Feds is, the whole reason this idea is still out there is because Federal supervisors underutilize the accountability systems that are already in place, and that leads the taxpayers to believe the system doesn’t work and it’s impossible to fire the Federal employees who deserve to be removed.

If I may opine, as I occasionally do in this space, this report highlights a few egregious instances of Federal employees behaving badly, and does not take into account all the agencies who follow the procedures and successfully hold employees accountable, thousands of times each year.

Because the successful removals, my friends, don’t get your attention. But people remember things like the HUD employee who used his agency email to arrange a lap dance, or the USPS employee who bought cocaine on her lunch break and brought it in to the postal facility. If it bleeds, it leads, as I learned in broadcasting school. The sensationalism of the few bad cases on the front page is just another permutation of the question we ask in our UnCivil Servant training classes: What’s more scary – a shark or a cow? (Hint: the cow should scare you more.)

[Editor’s note: Would you like bring UnCivil Servant training to your supervisors?  Contact FELTG Training Director Dan Gephart at [email protected].]

We don’t need civil service reform. I’ll say it again: We don’t need civil service reform. In fact, I wrote about this a couple of years back in a three-part series where I detailed that holding people accountable is not as difficult as you might think, doesn’t take as much time as you might think, and doesn’t require as much evidence as you might think. And I stand by it today.

At FELTG, we have been teaching on accountability for more than 20 years. And in too many classes, we come across agencies where the supervisors, L/ER Specialists, or attorneys admit (or won’t admit the truth) that they are risk-averse and don’t like taking disciplinary or performance-based actions because they don’t want to lose at litigation. So too often, they look the other way when employees have behavioral or performance issues.

For example, look at these statistics from a 2019 research brief the Merit Systems Protection Board:

Top Three Reasons Supervisors Don’t Fire More Bad Performers

  1. Agency’s culture is to not remove: 83 percent
  2. Lack of upper management support: 78 percent
  3. Lack of quality HR support: 75 percent

Remedying Unacceptable Performance in the Federal Workplace (MSPB, June 2019).

I don’t need to tell you that these are not good numbers. This all adds to the problem of perception. When bad employees are not held accountable, the good employees see that nothing happens, those bad employees get the same pay and benefits as your hardest workers, and it negatively impacts morale. Over the years, we have seen an increase in positive morale when supervisors hold employees accountable, and we encourage you to do the same.

In our classes, we show you the hard evidence that if you follow the law, the chances of your disciplinary or performance action being upheld are really, really good. Don’t let the shark scare you. Most people get through life without getting eaten by a shark.

Show America that we don’t need civil service reform. Show your good employees that their hard work means a lot to you and to your agency. Use the accountability system the way it’s intended – to remove employees, when you have cause. We promise, it’s possible. We help agencies do it every day. [email protected]

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This