BBG Watch Commentary
An appeal from Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO and Director John F. Lansing to agency’s federal employees with regard to the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) comes in the wake of Voice of America (VOA) Director Amanda Bennett’s e-mail informing staff that “VOA Mandarin Service Chief Sasha Gong and four other Mandarin Service employees have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation.”
“The decisions regarding the interview with Guo Wengui,” Amanda Bennett wrote, “were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett and included deputy director Sandy Sugawara, program director Kelu Chao, and East Asia division director Norm Goodman.”
Federal employees of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (hundreds of contractors, as well as employees of BBG’s grantee organizations do not have the right to rate BBG leaders) are asking why lower-ranking VOA Chinese Branch managers, editors and media professionals were humiliated and suspended with pay pending an investigation, if “the decisions regarding the interview with Guo Wengui,” which — as one VOA Chinese-speaking journalist pointed out to Amanda Bennett, have caused “unbelievable“ damage to VOA’s reputation in China — “were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett.” Shouldn’t these senior leaders be the first ones to be suspended and investigated? is a question being asked by many VOA Mandarin Service journalists and other BBG employees.
Throwing lower-ranking journalists and other employees under the bus instead of protecting them reminds us a lot of the customary BBG management’s approach to running the agency, for which the previous 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) produced a drop in employees’ rating of senior leaders — John Lansing, Amanda Bennett and others — in the categories of “Leadership” and fostering “Employee Engagement.”
As the Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson described these 2016 FEVS results:
“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].”
As they fill out the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees should remember the VOA Mandarin Five, show solidarity with their colleagues and give John F. Lansing, Amanda Bennett, and other BBG and VOA senior leaders the kind of rating for leadership that they deserve.
END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY
VOA STATEMENT ON GUO WENGUI INTERVIEW
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 11:42:47 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: VOA Statement on Guo Wengui Interview
As you may be aware, there has been a lot of attention to a recent interview conducted by VOA Mandarin. In response to media inquiries on the matter, the following statement was issued and also shared at a VOA Mandarin town hall earlier this week.
VOA Statement on Guo Wengui Interview
VOA Mandarin Service Chief Sasha Gong and four other Mandarin Service employees have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation. Scott Stearns, managing editor in the VOA Africa division, will be the acting Mandarin Service chief until further notice. The decisions regarding the interview with Guo Wengui were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett and included deputy director Sandy Sugawara, program director Kelu Chao, and East Asia division director Norm Goodman. At no time during the decision-making process was there any management consideration of not doing the interview, nor of cutting short an ongoing interview for any reason. The decisions were based on the journalistic principles of verification, balance and fairness that are standard industry practice and apply universally to all VOA services. There are no special exemptions for individual services to follow different practices. There was no input whatsoever from the U.S. government, nor would the firewall permit any such input. Pressure from the Chinese government played no role in any decision-making. VOA and the BBG have decades’-long histories of producing full fair and balanced journalism in the face of even the most extreme pressures.
Amanda Bennett, Director
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
END OF VOA STATEMENT
MESSAGE TO EMPLOYEES FROM BBG CEO JOHN LANSING
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 3:14:44 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey
The past twelve months have passed quickly, and we are less than a month from the launch of this year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). On May 9, FEVS will be available for a six-week period during which all federal employees will have the opportunity to give their thoughts on factors that drive engagement, satisfaction, and motivation in the workplace. I encourage every employee to complete this year’s survey. Participation is confidential. Results will be evaluated closely by my team and agency leadership, and will inform action plans and solutions. You can learn more about the FEVS here.
Two years ago, we created Workplace Solutions, a framework for cross-functional teams to address issues identified in our survey results. Many of the teams have completed their work, while others are still working on implementation plans. Some results of this effort include a dedicated internal communications team, a front entry monitor to promote activities, a revamped Mentoring Program, and a robust incentive awards program that included $1.1M in cash awards and 2,000 hours in time-off hours being awarded to employees in 2016. And recently, Workplace Solutions launched beta version of an interactive organization chart with links to our agency directory.
Workplace Solutions is an ongoing, agency-wide effort which welcomes the participation of any interested employee. If you would like to get involved or have a suggestion to improve the agency, send a note to WorkPlaceSolutions@bbg.gov.
In this vein, I would like to share additional updates on leadership development at BBG. Last spring, I issued my commitment letter to you. From that, we developed the BBG Management Accountability Charter as a standard for leaders at all levels to communicate effectively with employees, provide resources and opportunities, and create a safe, fair, and supportive workplace culture.
To accomplish the goals of the Management Accountability Charter, agency leaders at all levels need to continually bolster their own leadership development. In the coming weeks, Workplace Solutions will launch “Leadership 2020,” a comprehensive leadership development program to prepare management teams to improve communication, engagement, and performance management in a changing environment. Leadership 2020 will implement 360 degree feedback tools for managers, set learning requirements, and require development plans that ensure the goals of the Management Accountability Charter are met.
Additionally, in the coming days I will announce our candidates for the Nathanson Public Diplomacy Scholarship. Candidates will participate in the Aspen Institute Socrates Program in Aspen, Colorado from July 7 to July 10. It provides a forum for emerging leaders from various professions to explore contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogue. It is a great opportunity that I fully support.
Lastly, I encourage you to participate in the FEVS and to engage with leadership in other ways. Let your voice be heard through VOA’s Ask Amanda, WorkPlaceSolutions@bbg.gov, InternalCommunications@bbg.gov, suggestion boxes in the Cohen building and the Talk to John section on the CEO intranet page. I want to hear from you about what we can do together to improve our workplace.
Thank you for all that you do in support of U.S. international media.
John F. Lansing
Chief Executive Officer and Director
Broadcasting Board of Governors
END OF MESSAGE TO EMPLOYEES FROM BBG CEO JOHN LANSING