Politico, Wash. Examiner pick up on WP description of BBG leadership as ‘regular bottom-feeder’ on employee morale

BBG Watch Commentary Update

In the annual 2016 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees have given their new CEO and Director John F. Lansing a strong vote of non-confidence after they had a chance to observe him doing his government job for more than eight months.

Politico and Washington Examiner reported on the 2016 federal employee engagement results, which led Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson to conclude that the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the Voice of America and other government broadcasters, continues to be “another regular bottom-feeder” in employee engagement and agency leadership.

“BBG is going backward,” WP’s Joe Davidson concluded.

One of Voice of America’s reporters, who wants to protect his identity, sent us this comment:

 

 
VOICE OF AMERICA REPORTER:
 
“I feel bad for the new crew. But they don’t seem like morale raisers, frankly. Cold fish, the lot of them.”

 

 

Another BBG employee who also wants to remain anonymous, had this comment:

 

ANONYMOUS BBG EMPLOYEE:
 
“It is notable that among those chosen to participate in Lansing’s [employee engagement and morale improvement] “Action Teams” is none other than [a VOA manager], who had to be disciplined for anger management problems, yet maintains his [executive] position in the management chain.”

 

Internal and external critics are saying that instead of taking charge and leading, the new inexperienced BBG and VOA management team, selected by BBG Chairman Jeff Shell and BBG Board members who are now serving on expired terms, has relied on longtime failed managers and continues to fill high-level administrative positions in the already bloated agency bureaucracy.

Shell, Lansing and other BBG officials have been blamed by employees and outside observers for a number of spectacular management and programming blunders and for resisting bipartisan calls from Congress for major structural reforms. Former

BBG member, American journalist and broadcaster Blanquita Cullum has described some of the recent VOA reporting on terrorism, Russia and China as “disgraceful,” “shameful,” “flawed and dangerous” for the United States.
 

READ: Voice of America rewrites history on Mao’s murderous rule, BBG Watch, September 16, 2016

 

 
Politico

POLITICO

 
Morning Shift
 
Your daily speed read on labor and employment policy
 
“Agencies where workers were most satisfied included OMB, NASA, the SEC, FERC and the FTC. Not so satisfied? DHS, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Small Business Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. See the full survey results here.”
 

READ MORE: Overtime rule challenged in court, By Marianne LeVine, “Morning Shift,” Politico, September 21, 2016

 

 

 

 
washington-examiner-logo

WASHINGTON EXAMINER

 
“Still, DHS is in the basement, with an overall score of 56 percent on employee engagement. That ties DHS with the Broadcasting Board of Governors.”
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration and Department do a little better, and round out the bottom five agencies.”
 

READ MORE: DHS home to unhappiest, least-engaged federal workers, By PETE KASPEROWICZ (@PETEKDCNEWS), Washington Examiner, September 20, 2016.

 

 

In “Engagement Index Trends – Leaders Lead” Category, the broadcasting Board of Governors went down from 43 in 2015 to 42 in 2016.

Engagement Index Trends - Leaders Lead - 2016 FEVS

Engagement Index Trends – Leaders Lead – 2016 FEVS

53 is the average government-wide rating in “Engagement Index Trends – Leaders Lead” category for federal agencies.

The State Department’s rating in the “Leaders Lead” category is 60 in 2016, compared to BBG’s rating of 42 (18 points less).

BBG’s “Leaders Lead” rating has declined one point after John Lansing became BBG CEO and Director in September 2015. Only the monumentally mismanaged Department of Homeland Security had a lower rating (40) in this category in the 2016 FEVS survey taken between April and June of 2016, at least eight months after John Lansing took over the top position at the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

While the watch dog BBG Watch website had initially extended its support to John Lansing, hoping for major management reforms, and even reposted his message with promises of improving employee morale before the FEVS was taken between April and June of 2016, BBG employees quickly made their assessment of their new CEO’s lack of critical experience despite being a successful former private entertainment TV executive. BBG employees seemed to have based their assessment on signs of ineffectiveness in his new government job combined with his reliance, because of his lack of critical experience, on some of the most incompetent longtime BBG managers.

READ: State and White House more honest, less deceptive on Jeff Shell than BBG bureaucracy and VOA, BBG Watch, July 15, 2016

 

As the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results show, John Lansing turned out to be a great disappointment at the Broadcasting Board of Governors agency and for its federal employees. The agency under his leadership is in a state of increasing chaos.

READ: Your tax-funded Voice of America: NYC terrorist ‘friendly’; Minnesota terrorist ‘smart and reliable’, BBG Watch, September 21, 2016

 

As reported by The Washington Post “Federal Insider” columnist Joe Davidson:

 

 

Washington Post

WASHINGTON POST:

 

“The Broadcasting Board of Governors, another regular bottom-feeder that oversees the Voice of America and other government broadcasters, also scored 56 [in EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Category]. But unlike DHS, BBG is going backward. It scored two points better last year [in Engagement Index Trends]”
 

READ MORE: Homeland Security finally shows employee morale improvement, though still rates low, Joe Davidson | Columnist, The Washington Post, September 20, 2016.

 

 
 

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2016-employee-engagement-fevs

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John Lansing

John Lansing

BBG CEO John Lansing’s Perspective

 
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 2:12:22 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Year in Review & Looking Forward

Dear Colleagues,

Today marks my one year of service at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and I continue to be impressed by the dedicated group of people who work here in the Cohen Building, across our five BBG brands, and around the world.

Over the past year I have watched this exceptional team achieve strong audience growth, give life to exciting new content opportunities, particularly in digital and mobile media, push for industry-leading ways to achieve impact in our programming, as we collectively work to inform, engage and connect with people in support of freedom and democracy.

Together, we have achieved a lot.

The ICC – Strategic Coordination

One of the most impactful things we did last year was form the U.S. international media Coordinating Committee (ICC) to facilitate strategic coordination across the BBG’s five networks and the IBB. There have been substantive improvements in favor of our key audiences based on this coordinated and strategic approach from Russia to China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea and covering CVE. The ICC now meets twice a month with me to discuss further collaboration and jointly worked with the IBB to develop and submit our FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets.

Measuring BBG’s Impact on Key Audiences

Equally important, together we are growing our focus on achieving impact through our journalism. BBG reaches an audience of 226 million weekly, which only goes to show the hunger for our accurate and reliable content around the world. But it is also clear that reach is not enough – we need our journalism and programming to impact the lives of our audiences and their communities as well. That is why I was so pleased when, in February of this year, we hosted an Impact Summit where research directors of each BBG network came together and agreed upon an enhanced Impact Model to evaluate all BBG content.

Aggressive Push into Digital / Mobile / Social

We also made several advancements to increase access and engagement on social/mobile platforms to reach younger, more urban audiences, future leaders and influencers. There already was a lot of work being done in this area before I arrived, but I am proud to say that we are pushing the envelope significantly further. In just a few weeks, we will convene a Social Media Summit to look at best practices across BBG, establish baseline expectations, and promote future growth in mobile / social media across our networks.

Putting Our Audiences First – On Their Terms

And we continue to create and scale up innovative and compelling new content and reporting that is making a difference around the world. For instance:

— MBN’s multi-platform Raise Your Voice initiative is connecting audiences in the Middle East as they fight back against ISIS recruitment

— OCB’s aggressive push to open up Cuba to Internet freedom

— RFA’s powerful investigative stories halting the construction of faulty health clinics by North Korea in Africa

— RFE/RL’s collaborative success story with an expanded Current Time on all platforms and aggressive DIGIM strategy

— VOA’s collaboration on Current Time, and its successful launch of the Global Town Hall in Somalia

And there is so much more being done across our networks, and at the IBB, that I simply do not have space to list them all here.

None of these advancements would be possible without your tireless support, commitment, and mission-driven energy – whether you are contributing to the team at IBB or serving in any of the many responsibilities at our networks. It is YOUR work that earns our audiences’ respect as a trusted source of news and safe access to a free Internet.

Yet, while this has been a remarkable year and we made many strides, there is still more we need to do to continue to transform our global operations to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving media environment. I look forward to working alongside you for the next year to do just that.

But, for the moment, I only wish to say this: I am proud to come to work every day and work alongside all of you to achieve our important mission. The BBG team is an extraordinary one, and I thank you for welcoming me.

With sincere gratitude,

John F. Lansing

CEO and Director

Broadcasting Board of Governors
 
 

BBG CEO John Lansing’s Perspective (Cont.)

 
Dear Colleagues,

The initial report on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for the agency was released this week by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Additional reports to follow in the next couple of months will add further analysis and government wide comparisons. I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the survey this year.

Our response rate of 63.3% was down some from 2015, but still well above the government-wide 45.8% response rate. We appreciate your honest feedback and will use the results to help us implement key actions and to plan new ways to better meet your needs. We are committed to making BBG a better place to work and will continue do everything we can to make this a reality.

Let me update you on what we are doing, and ways you can become involved.

First and foremost, I launched the agency-wide Workplace Solutions effort to review the survey results and develop solutions that address FEVS-identified issues. This initiative is proceeding well. Action teams are working on 23 recommendations and five of these are already partially or fully implemented, including launching a new mentoring program, creating the Workplace Solutions feedback mailbox, and issuing the CEO commitment letter. You can keep up with the activities of Workplace Solutions by visiting https://bbg.sharepoint.com/our-agency/workplace-solutions.

If you have any questions regarding the Workplace Solutions effort, please contact … of the Office of Management Services. You can also ask questions or make suggestions about workplace issues by writing to WorkPlaceSolutions@bbg.gov.

Additionally, the website UnlockTalent.gov is available to all employees and provides more information on the survey results, especially as they apply to Employee Engagement and Global Satisfaction Indices. OPM will begin updating this site with 2016 data in the next few months. When you first access the site, you will be able to see high level FEVS results across government. By becoming a registered user, you will be able to view the BBG’s results for Employee Engagement as well as Global Satisfaction. You will also have access to the Community of Practice page, which includes tools needed to create strategies that lead to an inclusive work environment. Please note that to become a registered user, you will need to use your @bbg.gov e-mail address. For those of you with @voanews.com email address, please use your username and @VOA.gov in order to access the site. If you have any questions regarding your access to the dashboard, please contact unlocktalent@opm.gov.

We will continue to make employee satisfaction and response to your feedback a priority. Please do not hesitate to use any of the above resources, or reach out to my team directly, if you have ideas, criticisms, or further insights.

In the meanwhile, I invite you to view the 2016 FEVS results as they become available by visiting https://bbg.sharepoint.com/sites/fevs/Pages/Default.aspx.

Sincerely,

John F. Lansing

Chief Executive Officer and Director

Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

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BBG Watch (May 2016)

 
 

May 3, 2016

 

Employee morale commitment letter from BBG CEO

 
 

May 3, 2016

BBG Watch Commentary

As the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is distributing links for federal employees to participate in the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), new Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing has issued on Monday, May 2, a “commitment letter,” in which he promises to improve internal communication and employee morale.

There has been some progress in governance since Lansing came on board in September 2015, for which some employees and outside observers give Lansing credit, but much of the old BBG executive team which has kept OPM employee morale ratings at the agency at record lows for many years remains in place. The CEO commitment letter is seen by employees as part of the management’s plan to help the agency improve its 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey employee satisfaction results after years of embarrassingly low ratings. Some found the letter to be thoughtfully-written and welcomed its message but remain skeptical whether Lansing will be able to deliver on his promises.

BBG employees will receive an e-mail from OPM (EVLI@OPM.GOV) with the subject line, “2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.” “To ensure that your responses are ANONYMOUS and CONFIDENTIAL, the survey is sent from OPM, and all responses are gathered by OPM,” another e-mail from the management assured the agency’s employees. “No one at the BBG will see individual responses,” BBG employees were told. The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. Supervisors and managers are to ensure that all employees have enough time to complete the survey.

Longtime observers of the agency noted that since Lansing is unable to hire, replace or reassign managers quickly in a federal government setting, he had to task some of the veteran BBG executives with improving internal communications. “Either he delivers the goods, or the bureaucracy will find a way to undermine him,” a former BBG employee observed. A former VOA foreign correspondent said: “too bad they had to lose so many talented people before getting someone who would make these pledges.”

It remains to be seen what kind of impact Lansing’s eight months at the helm of the BBG and his “commitment letter” will have on the 2016 FEVS results. “Honest responses from employees to the survey questions may help Lansing clean house and carry out more reforms more quickly,” a former VOA manager observed. BBG employees have been through a lot of abuse in the past and have seen many empty promises from their government executives. But compared to BBG management’s pre-FEVS messages of previous years, Lansing’s letter showed sincerity, dignity and class not seen at the BBG for ages.

Lansing’s decision to hire Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Amanda Bennett to be Voice of America director was well received because of her stellar journalistic credentials. In an e-mail to staff sent out Friday afternoon, April 29, Bennett announced that former Washington Post editor and foreign correspondent Sandy Sugawara will be the new VOA Deputy Director. According to Bennett’s e-mail, Sugawara served most recently for more than three years as managing editor for Trove, a digital news startup owned by The Washington Post and later by the Graham Holdings Company. Trove (also see Wikipedia article) was shut down in December 2015. Chairman and CEO of Graham Holdings Company (formerly The Washington Post Company) is Bennett’s husband, Donald E. Graham.

Previously, a number of VOA and BBG managers and editors came from CNN, a hiring pattern linked to some of their bosses who served on the BBG boards or at VOA and had worked earlier for CNN. Critics said that in some cases their credentials and particularly their later performance at the BBG and VOA left much to be desired. In 2013, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, herself a member of the BBG board, called the agency “practically defunct.” Late last year, BBG Chairman Jeff Shell and the current board placed Lansing, a single executive, in charge of a vast $750 million government agency managing and overseeing both federal and non-federal entities. The previous BBG CEO, Andy Lack, had resigned only after a few weeks on the job to take a much more rewarding and better paid position at NBC News.

One of BBG’s non-federal media entities, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), remains without permanent leadership for more then two years with reports of poor management and plummeting employee morale. Non-federal employees as well as contractors working as full time employees for BBG’s federal entities such as VOA are not polled by OPM for the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. BBG contractors were advised in a recent BBG management e-mail “to submit feedback regarding their work experience via … the Office of Contracts.” The lawyers representing BBG contract employees in a recently filed $400 class action lawsuit wrote that “The contractors have been complaining to their C.O.’s [Contracting Officers] for years without getting any relief, because their plight was planned from the top of the organization. This class action is their only hope and we believe the court will agree.” If BBG contractors were included in OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, its results would most likely be even more devastating for the agency.

In a $400 million class lawsuit against the agency, some of the BBG contract employees allege years of discrimination by federal managers, some of whom still occupy key positions. Lawyers for the agency and the U.S. Department of Justice filed their motion to dismiss the action.

Lansing wrote in his letter to employees: “We will comply with and enforce applicable personnel laws, rules, and regulations, and ensure that all employees are informed of their rights and responsibilities.” According to various investigations and reports by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), conducted and published before Lansing came on board, some of the current BBG executives have violated and abused government laws, rules, and regulations for many years without any accountability.

A few days before John Lansing published his “commitment letter,” an RFE/RL employee who wants to remain anonymous wrote to BBG Watch: “Indeed, when top managers at [RFE/RL] abuse their power and engage and the creation of the Potemkin villages, the response is diminished performance by ordinary journalists and editors.” RFE/RL employees are unable to form an effective labor union in the Czech Republic where RFE/RL has its headquarters. Foreign-born RFE/RL workers say that they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by the management without any effective legal recourse while programs they help to create expose human rights abuses abroad and call for workers’ rights to be universally respected.

John Lansing correctly observed that “as a longtime journalist I understand the importance of credibility and trust in winning over skeptical audiences.” “These concepts are more than just buzzwords – they are indispensable to what we do as journalists and public servants,” Lansing added. In light of his words and the bad publicity abroad over RFE/RL’s treatment of its journalists, it might be difficult for the BBG to continue to deny RFE/RL foreign-born employees their labor rights. An award-winning investigative reporter who was dismissed last year before John Lansing took over the CEO position wrote that she is happy not to be working for Radio Liberty’s Russian Service because she could not do her investigative reporting on corruption in Russia if she were still employed by RFE/RL.

Some congressional and other critics doubt that a single CEO, no matter how good or how experienced, can change the culture of the agency permanently. They foresee the bureaucracy returning with a vengeance to its past and current questionable management practices once Lansing is out of the picture. It seems that some BBG employees hope that he will succeed in carrying out at least a few his promises, but they seem to have little faith in many of their current executives and mid-level managers.

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BBG CEO John Lansing Commitment Letter

Broadcasting Board of Governors
United States of America

May 2, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

As a longtime journalist I understand the importance of credibility and trust in winning over skeptical audiences. These concepts are more than just buzzwords – they are indispensable to what we do as
journalists and public servants.

I have been encouraged by my conversations with many of you and assure you that I am more committed than ever to continue building a more collaborative, engaging and supportive workplace.

We are strengthening our internal communication across many levels, and will continue to refine and build on effective processes across all levels within the agency. Through this enhanced internal communication structure, we will step up our efforts to define the principal values of our work and clarify the procedures we use to reflect them.

I promise to create a BBG that we can all be proud of. and commit to each of you the following:

We will create a working environment that is free of personal favoritism, coercion,reprisal and retaliation and other prohibited personnel practices.

We will work to eliminate any behavior that compromises the BBG’s credibility or erodes the trust vital to our workplace.

We will ensure that BBG employees are held to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest.

We will comply with and enforce applicable personnel laws, rules, and regulations, and ensure that all employees are informed of their rights and responsibilities.

Most importantly, we will invest in the tools, processes, and programs that will nurture and support our Agency’s most valuable resource, our employees.

With these commitments as my guide, I will work every day toward building a unified and forward-leaning agency where our team is as united in purpose as it is diverse.

I am proud to work with all of you in such an important agency at this critical time for global media and journalism, and believe together we can realize our vision of an employee-first workplace that supports our mission to inform, engage and connect citizens around the world in support of freedom and democracy.

Sincerely

John F. Lansing
Chief Executive Officer and Director

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From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2016 2:30 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Message from BBG CEO and Director John Lansing – Workplace Solutions Recommendations Update

Colleagues,

 

In an effort to keep everyone apprised of our progress, and keep an open line of communication, I plan to provide updates on the 2015-2016 Workplace Solutions Recommendations efforts as certain milestones are reached. I look forward to sharing the Workplace Solutions team’s progress with you all as we work together toward addressing the challenges laid out in the 2015-2016 FEVS.

 

First, let me start by thanking everyone who came out to support the Kick-Off on March 23, 2016.  We had a great turnout, resulting in 87 signups for Action Teams at the event.  As of today, we have 128 Action Team Members from across the agency.  It is wonderful to see such a strong response, and I thank all of our volunteers for offering their time to this important effort.

 

On March 31st, we held an orientation for the volunteers who signed up as Team Leads for the 13 Action Teams.  For teams with two or more Team Lead volunteers, the Leads or Co-Team Leads were selected by their peers.

 

Our 13 Action Team Leaders/Co-Team Leaders are as follows:

 

Recommendation
Action Team Leaders
Regularly schedule top management interactions and face-to-face communications with employees
Joan Mower – OSD
Ningrum Spicer – EAP
Revamp/rebrand IBB Notices – BBG Daily News Sheet
David Futrowsky – Central News
Implement regular Staff Meetings Agency Wide
Janice Swan-Davis – Creative Svs
Lisa Ponzio – Operations
Develop CEO commitment letter to BBG Employees
Brandon Gardner – VOA Dir Staff
Provide training and resources to Senior Leaders on how to motivate and engage workforce
Vivian Chakarian – Eurasia Div
Kevin Enochs – Central News
Create and Maintain a computer based Agency Org chart
Carol Guensburg – Central ews
Bob Morris – TV Enhancement
Implement cross-agency working level meetings between IBB, VOA and OCB
Diane Butts – Creative Services
Andy Cassells – Operations
Develop “One Mission: One Team” messaging campaign
Amy Katz – Central News
Provide recurring Management Training for dealing with poor performers and difficult people
Julie Parabaniuk – Eurasia Div
Implement 360 Feedback tools for SES, Senior Managers, Division Directors & Equivalents
Steve Redisch – VOA Dir Staff
Carolyn Presutti – Central News
Hold Manager/Employee Workshops on various formal and informal recognition tools
June Simms – LPD
Assess employee needs to ensure they have the tools and resources to do their jobs
Carol Prahl – LPD
Jodi Reed – LPD
Provide Leadership Training for Managers
Barbara Brady -TSI
Raymond Perez – TSI
Action Team Member orientation was held on April 7, 2016.  The Teams will now begin to meet to develop specific plans/ideas to implement their respective recommendation.  Each Team will provide a monthly progress update to my senior team and me, which in turn will be posted on SharePoint for all of our employees to view.
As one of the 23 recommendations that’s well into the implementation phase, “Dedicated tool for receiving and responding to employee feedback”, I encourage to you to send your questions and feedback to WorkplaceSolutions@bbg.gov.

 
 

John F. Lansing

 

Chief Executive Officer and Director
Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

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