The Long Slow Crawl Up The Mountain
The numbers are in for the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (formerly known as the Human Capital Survey).
Once again, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) solidly maintains its position as one of the worst work environments in the Federal workplace.
Here are some of the “highlights:”
• 33rd of 37 in job satisfaction;
• 35th of 37 on results-oriented performance culture;
• 36th of 37 on talent management; and,
• 37th of 37 on leadership and knowledgeable management. Dead last!
The BBG has already begun to spin the small almost negligible improvements. These improvements are virtually meaningless, particularly in the context of the number of years the survey has been conducted. At its current pace, significant improvement (as in the upper 10 percent) could take well into the middle of this century, if ever. Evidently, the BBG believes in a slow creep approach to improvement. At or near the bottom has a whole different meaning than being at or near the top. Sustained placement at the bottom of the survey points to a very deep malaise.
The cover sheet of the survey contains two phrases: “Empowering Employees” and “inspiring change.”
The BBG does neither.
Let’s get down to business with a realistic appraisal of what is going on here:
The BBG has no commitment to the agency’s employees or to improving the workplace environment.
From the first Human Capital survey to the present, the agency has consistently ranked at or near the bottom every year the survey has been conducted. There are several reasons for this:
First, what should be evident is that the agency has systemic, institutionalized problems. These problems have never been addressed in any meaningful way. Early on in the surveys, the agency has taken a “baby steps” approach toward addressing problems. It was ridiculous then and is even more so today. Routinely, agency officials meet with employee representatives. The sole purpose of these meetings appears to be for agency officials to say that a meeting was held. This is commonly referred to as “motion without movement.” These meetings are a colossal waste of time. That waste of time equates with wasting taxpayer money. Stall and delay are cornerstones of the tactics of agency officials in these meetings who are, in effect, representing the BBG.
Second, the perpetrators of the agency’s at or near-bottom-dwelling position are the careerists who populate the senior ranks of agency management. Some of these people are operating at a level way above their ability, with predictable results. For them, their top priority is to protect the positions they encumber and the six figure salaries that come with them.
If the BBG was serious about improving the agency’s ranking in this survey, it would move out these non-performing, inept and incapable careerists and relegate them to other duties. It is not a perfect solution, but it is likely the only one.
The BBG hasn’t done this and isn’t about to. Why?
The answer is because the BBG has made failure an acceptable standard of performance. It has rewarded failure, if one would care to examine the bonuses and awards presented to senior agency officials through the years of the employee survey. It has embraced a so-called “strategic plan” which is a proven, demonstrable failure, as demonstrated in Russia and the Middle East. Indeed, the BBG intends fully to continue the failure and expand upon it, most notably in China.
As Secretary of State Clinton testified, “We are losing the information war.” The agency responsible for losing the information war is the BBG. Losing the information war equates with failure.
Agency employees are not stupid. They know that the alleged “strategic plan” is a failure. They have repudiated the plan and that repudiation is embedded in the responses to the employee survey. The have denounced the Board and senior agency management by ranking them in the lowest category possible: 37th out of 37 agencies in the area of leadership.
The agency has no leadership.
Instead, it has a Board that is distancing itself from the agency’s problems. It has placed broad authority in the IBB (International Broadcasting Bureau) Director. As such, it is another example of failure: one person inheriting the problems perpetrated by the “usual suspects,” the embedded careerists of the agency.
One should not expect a dramatic sea change in the agency with the IBB trying to run the show. Miracles are a rarity and there is no miracle on the horizon for the employees of this agency so long as the underlying fundamental problems are not addressed.
Agency employees have demonstrated that they are the last line of defense against blatantly errant decision making by agency officials. They are fighting for the proper direction of US international broadcasting. In this regard, they have gone above and beyond and their efforts should not be treated lightly.
After years of survey results that point squarely to bad managers and bad management practices, these employees deserve attention and intervention by the highest levels of the Executive Branch. Unfortunately, they are not likely to get it, something that plays into the hands of the careerists responsible for creating a hostile, dysfunctional environment inside the Cohen Building and who appear to be perfectly content with the agency’s ranking in this survey.