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?
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?
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?
Signed, 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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.