Dear Bureaucrat, How can I win arguments against lawyers?

Dear Bureaucrat,

Lots of the people I deal with at work are lawyers. I’m not; I have an MPA and experience in government. But whenever there’s an issue about how to handle something in our agency, the bosses always side with the lawyers. It’s like they see the lawyers as adult supervision for the rest of us. How can I convince the bosses what’s best for our mission when the lawyer at the table is raising trivial objections?

Dick from Blackheath

Dear Dick,

The boss has three reasons to side with the lawyer. First…[Read the rest in Federal Times ]

Dear Bureaucrat, Do I have to do work I wasn’t hired for?

Dear Bureaucrat,

I am a civilian employee of the Department of the Army, in the electronics shop as an electronic mechanic. When we changed commands, my mission went away. Our command says we no longer work on that equipment. I now essentially have no mission, no job. However my leadership wants to be able to move me around and work in shops that need help. For instance, they would like me to work in a small arms shop for the next year to cover for a mission.

Do I have any rights to refuse them pushing me into work that is not on my position description and not related to what I was hired for? I don’t even care if they decide to get rid of me as long as they have to pay me severance (which I’m eligible for with 16 years service). I also have concerns over the repetitive work in small arms as I am a disabled veteran.

What rights do I have to refuse the work they want to assign me that is completely outside of my position?

Unwilling Utility Infielder

Dear Infielder,

I suggest you talk to your union. In federal workplaces, unions represent all workers who are eligible to join, whether or not you are a union member. They might have some inside information on what your command is willing to do. As to what an employee’s rights are, I asked expert federal employment lawyer Elaine L. Fitch from Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C. She gave the following as education for all of us, not legal advice on a particular matter:
[Read the rest at ]

Dear Bureaucrat, Is a government job worth getting?

Dear Bureaucrat,

Is it worth the hassle to apply for government jobs? I used to think working in government would be a way to do good in the world, have financial security, and get ahead. But the news is full of government doing terrible things, and people quitting so they won’t have to do terrible things, or being reassigned to force them to quit. I see people on social media bragging about how exciting their government jobs are, but nobody I know personally feels that way. Should I even bother trying to get in?

Not Winston Smith

Dear Not Winston,

There is an old image of what a government career can be: join an agency whose mission you believe in, get trained and advance within the agency, maybe to a top job, and retire with a pension and pride in a job well done. Even in the heyday of the civil service, most careers fell short of that ideal. But now it is even less realistic.

Most government work is now done by people who [Read the rest in Federal Times: ]

Reader response to Dear Bureaucrat, Should I worry about my annual evaluation?

An anonymous reader points out that your annual evaluations could make the difference between keeping or losing your job if your agency has a Reduction in Force:

In your article titled, “Dear Bureaucrat, should I worry about my annual evaluation?” I noticed one very important piece of information was omitted from the response to the question.  Federal employee annual performance ratings very much matter when a reduction in force occurs.  The following article states, “Employees receive extra RIF service credit for performance based upon the average of their last three annual performance ratings of record received during the four-year period prior to the date the agency issues RIF notices.”  That could be an important factor in the current federal employment environment.

According to OPM, reorganizations and furloughs can be subjected to the RIF rules, both of which are not uncommon in federal employment.

Be sure to click on the tabs within the OPM article for details such as the following:

  • 20 additional years for each performance rating of “Outstanding” or equivalent (i.e., Level V);
  • 16 additional years for each performance rating of “Exceeds Fully Successful” or equivalent (i.e., Level IV); and,
  • 12 additional years for each performance rating of “Fully Successful” or equivalent (i.e., Level III).

I think many federal employees may not be aware of this information about how their annual performance evaluations factor into RIF actions.

Dear Bureaucrat, I want to be a crony!

Dear Bureaucrat,

I’ve worked my way up to being a supervisor, but I still don’t feel like I’m an insider. The top floor isn’t interested in my views on what the agency should do. Also, I’ve lost out on promotions a couple of times recently to people less qualified than me; one didn’t even have any experience in our agency. I know it’s cronyism, and now I’m ready to get off my high horse and join in. How can I become a crony?

Boss Tweed

Dear Boss,

First promise that you will only use cronyism for good. Promise? OK then… Read the rest in Federal Times

Reader response to Dear Bureaucrat, My Job Wants Me to Lie

One note – it’s amazing how hard it is to change a requirement. 
I worked at an agency that was offered a contract that included the requirement that a certain form had to be filled out by all new hires within some period of time. The program and form had long been cancelled (years before). No problem I thought, I’ll have them remove requirement. Contract analyst said they couldn’t remove it, as it was part of the standard template. Escalated to City Attorney office – same response from staff. Escalated to an actual Deputy City Atty. After back and forth, told that it was a requirement and they could do nothing about it. So agency had a choice, sign an agreement agreeing that they would do something they knew they couldn’t do or stand on principal and turn down the funding (with related job losses). 
They signed and certified that every staff would be required to complete the form upon being hired. 
I and I’m sure many others could go on for days with these stories. 

name withheld

Dear Bureaucrat, I want my job to give me rules. Am I crazy?

Dear Bureaucrat,

Where I work, there’s no way to look up how anything should be done. When I needed to send a document by overnight delivery, it was a two-hour project to ask around about getting the label, the billing code, where to bring the envelope, etc. When I do my work, I have to copy how each task was done last time, no matter how stupid that was, because there’s no way to know what requirements we really need to meet. Then somebody will decide they want it done differently and I have to redo it, even though there was no way I could know. There are policies and procedures on our intranet, but they are vague, out of date and contradictory, so everybody ignores them. Am I crazy to want a rule book so I’m not always guessing what will go through?


Dear Hammurabi,

The good news is, you are not crazy. We all hate red tape that gets in the way of doing our jobs, but Leisha DeHart-Davis coined the term “green tape” for rules that help us do our work. In one study, DeHart-Davis, Davis, and Mohr surveyed government workers about rules for their jobs. Workers who said their workplaces had more written rules, rather than unwritten rules, were more satisfied that the rules were applied consistently and less likely to say the rules were unnecessary, burdensome and excessively controlling. They also had better job satisfaction. When everybody can read the rules, at least you know what you need to do, and you are less at the mercy of other people’s whims.

The bad news is… Read the rest in Federal Times