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FCW : July 15, 2014
Inspiration 24 July 15, 2014 FCW.COM better, we ll have more engaged and committed workers." The fact that only 43 percent of survey respondents said their leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment is a huge opportunity to improve the situation, said Liff, author of "Managing Government Employees" and co-author of "A Team of Leaders." Changing the dynamic is a function of the manager s approach, communica- tion systems, the fairness of manage- ment systems, employee dynamics and the manager s skill in dealing with dif- cult employees. "The way you look at govern- ment employees to a large extent is a self-ful lling prophecy," he said. He encouraged managers to start with the assumption that most people want to do a good job and look at systems before blaming employees for any problems. For instance, if three employees seem to have performance problems and they all have the same supervisor, there could be a problem with the boss. When it comes to communication, it s important to explain the big picture to employees so they don t ll any gaps in information with rumors. Managers should also give feedback and teach in many different ways because people have a variety of learning styles. When Liff worked for the govern- ment, he was detailed to a Department of Veterans Affairs of ce and began his rst day by introducing himself to the staff. When he got to the mail room, the employees seemed alarmed and asked what was wrong. They d only seen previous directors once a year for their bonus checks. That s a practice guaranteed to limit honest communications and feed- back and impair employee dynamics. "They re only going to trust you if they see you re there," Liff said. Furthermore, management systems must be integrated and applied consis- tently. Most important, poor perform- ers must be dealt with immediately. In another position, Liff posted employ- ees performances publicly, though he withheld their names. Within three months, that unit s performance had doubled. "All of a sudden, nobody could hide any more," he said. "We had upward peer pressure." To improve employee dynamics, managers must be sensitive and pay attention to whomever they are speak- ing with. Liff also advised managers not to take things personally and not to be afraid to take decisive action. The top- performing employees want to work for a winning organization and will become discouraged and disengage if there are no consequences for poor performers. "It s so crucial that we deal with our problem employees" and not perpetu- ate the problem by moving or promot- ing them, Liff said. "People for decades have bought into the myth that you can t deal with a dif cult employee." His guidelines for doing so are: 1. Enlist the participation of the man- agement team and all advisers, includ- ing human resources and legal counsel. 2. Identify the problem employee and develop a strategy for getting him or her back on track. 3. Take strong action and deal with the problem as soon as possible. 4. Recognize that it s better to occa- sionally lose than never take action and allow poor performers to erode morale from the inside. 5. Use probationary periods to avoid bringing problem employees onto your team. "If you go weak, weak, weak, no one s going to take you seriously," Liff said. He added that only 20 percent of government employees who have been red le an appeal, and 40 percent of those cases are settled. That leaves only 12 cases out of 100 going to arbitration, which favors management 85 percent of the time. "Your odds of that ring being over- turned [are] about 3 or 4 percent," he said. "Doing the right thing sometimes means ring someone." To be sure, the rst obligation is to try to turn around a poor performer, but the bottom line is that the manager must deal with the situation, not ignore it or shuffle the person to another division. "If we could do that one thing well and good, that would change every- thing," Liff said. "You ll have to take fewer actions to deal with poor per- formers because people will see that you re serious." ■ How Data.gov gets its data You can t just upload. Here s how the JSON-based system operates: 1. An agency posts datasets with their JSON listing to its website. 2. The General Services Administration validates the JSON le against Project Open Data schema and lists errors for the agency to x. 3. The agency revises the les to incorporate GSA s feedback. 4. GSA revalidates and approves the data. 5. Data.gov updates to "harvest" the agency s JSON le. 6. Data.gov validates the le, rejecting invalid records and processing valid ones. 7. The agency's datasets are published in the Data.gov catalog. Source: Data.gov Deputy Program Director Hyon Kim
June 15, 2014
July 30, 2014