The Broadcasting Board of Governors – Self-Interest Is Job One!

2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for BBGby The Federalist

The folks on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building really don’t get it.  They are the gift that just keeps on giving.  When not promoting their bogus “new strategic plan,” they are now trying – vainly – to limit the damage from the publication of cash bonuses handed out to themselves.
 
On December 21, 2011, Richard Lobo, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director, issued a statement regarding these awards.
 
The statement is a recitation of government-wide statistics and other statements which have the net effect of defending the indefensible, rationalizing the bonuses in the seeming context of government business as usual and totally missing the point of the criticisms leveled against the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the IBB for their largesse among the senior ranks.
 
Mr. Lobo’s memo takes the convenient way out, via government-wide statistics.  More than convenience, it is an attempt to give credibility to the agency’s actions.  However, by burying the agency’s actions within the Federal government as a whole, what the memo does is bury the credibility of Mr. Lobo.
 
The issue isn’t the government as a whole.  The issue is this agency and its senior officials.
 
This is the agency which has earned the description, “One of the worst organizations in the Federal government.”  The BBG/IBB continues to deserve that distinction because they have continued, institutionalized and built upon a record for being dysfunctional and ineffective.  Relative to this issue, the agency continues to rank at or near the bottom in the Federal government employee surveys and is dead last in the specific category of Leadership.
 
Under the circumstances, handing out bonuses to senior agency officials has the appearance of rewarding the creation and perpetuation of a hostile work environment.  Actually, it’s more than the appearance.  It’s a fact.  That’s the record.
 
Now, here’s an interesting quote from the memo:
 
“While concerted efforts resulted in improvements in a number of areas, the overall results of the federal employee satisfaction survey remain a serious concern.”
 
This is a load of nonsense.  Miniscule improvements on peripheral matters do not equate with a wholesale sea change in the overall management philosophy inside the Cohen Building.  We know it and so do the agency’s employees.  In fact, the only people to whom the survey results are a serious concern are the employees, not the agency’s senior officials.  Why?  Because to this point, there has been no penalty applied to the managers who perpetuate the conditions that produce the agency’s earned reputation for being one of the worst places to work in the Federal Government.
 
To that end, here is the game the agency plays:
 
Regularly, agency officials meet with employee representatives.  We’ve referred to these meetings before.  We call them “motion without movement.”  The agency’s intent in these meetings is to build a record that it had a series of meetings with the employee representatives.  It is not to show that progress has been made on any major issue.  It is merely to say that it had a number of meetings with the agency’s employee representatives.  That is it.  Nothing more.  And the reason why these meetings produce no constructive results is because the management intent is to stall, delay and otherwise obstruct any progress on issues resulting in a substantive positive outcome for the employees.
 
Agency employees and their representatives have been the last line of defense against the perpetration of waste, fraud and abuse.  They have struggled mightily but have had some noteworthy successes apart from these meetings.
 
However, we would argue that these meetings are a huge waste of time.  They are a waste of the taxpayers’ money.  Having these meetings has had no material effect on the existing paradigm.  The employee representatives would be better served to use their time to great effect with Members of Congress and with the press to get the word out as to what is going on inside the Cohen Building.  “The worst organization in the Federal government” is a label that sticks and has not gone away.
 
Not having these meetings doesn’t make things worse.  When you’re at the bottom in these surveys as the BBG/IBB is – and prefers and intends to remain – things are already worse.  The BBG/IBB is in the business of defining the worst.  Putting the lid on further meetings doesn’t invite legal retaliation by the agency against the employee unions because the context of these meetings does not trump the Federal Labor Relations Statute.  So there – bag it and move on to more productive activities elsewhere and forget the self-interested, self-aggrandizing bonus-mongers on the other side of table.
 
Employees and their representatives should disabuse themselves of the notion that there are common interests between agency officials and agency employees.  There are none.  If senior officials can sell out the employee workforce, they will do it.  In fact, that is an inherent part of their “flim, flam plan:” to privatize the workforce and remove as much if not all of the rights employees enjoy as Federal workers.  And you can best believe that these officials will turn around and use this intended result as a justification for more bonuses in the future.
 
Mr. Lobo’s memo studiously avoids the fact that the Social Security Administration gave out zero bonuses to its Senior Executive Service (SES) officials in FY2010.  In the current fiscal environment and Federal employee raises through cost-of-living-allowances (COLAs) going flat, this is what is commonly referred to as taking the high road and being on the same page with employees.
 
What we know is that senior officials of the BBG/IBB are not on the high road.  They are not on the same page with their employees and they don’t want to be.  To all appearances, the senior managers are trolling the low road.  There are signposts along the low road.  They read: ego, arrogance, self-aggrandizement, contempt, greed, avarice.
 
And let us remember, in the Federal employee workplace surveys:
 
37 out of 37 in Leadership: dead last.  For years.
 
But #1 in putting self-interest ahead of everything else.
 
The Lobo memo makes each point abundantly clear.
 
If you are looking for a mission statement from the BBG/IBB, it isn’t the VOA Charter and it most certainly isn’t “promoting freedom and democracy.”  The real mission statement is:
 
“Self-Interest is Job One!”
 
The Federalist
January 2012
 
 

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