The Long, Slow Crawl Up The Mountain, Part II

2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for BBGBy The Federalist
 
 
People who monitor what goes on inside the Cohen Building were amazed to hear the BBG crowing about being a “most improved” Federal agency, following the latest employee survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
 
This follows an article appearing on the Federal News Radio website.
 
There may be metrics used by OPM that allows for the BBG to meet the technical criteria for “most improved.”  However, materially, the agency is no different now than it was before the survey.  Indeed, it may even be in worse shape.
 
Survey watchers look at key components in questions and responses.  In these key components, the agency is still near or at bottom.  Whatever “improvements” may be cited, substantively, the agency is still in the bottom third of the agencies sampled for the survey.
 
Here are some of the key components:
 
• 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!
 
This is hardly something to crow about, particularly in the area of LEADERSHIP.
 
The BBG is on the same trajectory that it has outlined in the goals of its so-called “strategic plan.”  It intends to curtail and then eliminate altogether its international radio broadcasting and rely solely upon websites for audio, video and text.  This might be justifiable IF the agency’s intended audiences were in free societies where Internet access was open.  However, the agency’s core audiences remain in societies where information access in controlled or blocked, especially on the Internet.  In addition, BBG websites have been shown to be vulnerable to cyber attack.  Just ask the Iranian Cyber Army about their successful five-hour attack against all BBG websites.
 
Employees know where things are headed if the BBG is able to reach its goals.  Indeed, as was made clear in a recent meeting with employees conducted by VOA Director David Ensor, a reduction-in-force (RIF) is in the offing.  As he put it graphically to make the point, there will be “blood on the floor.”
 
This can hardly be inspiring or motivational to agency employees in all BBG entities, not only those in VOA.  However, VOA is the prime target.
 
Clearly, what the BBG intends to do is reduce the agency to just another mediocre website – something easily lost in the cacophony of the Internet.
 
Members of Congress need to become familiar with the Internet phenomenon called “confirmation bias.”  In the context of the Internet, what this means is that people tend to gravitate toward websites that confirm or affirm their beliefs.  They are not seeking out credible or objective sources of news or information to shape their views.  These views are already formed.  Individuals seek out websites reinforcing their views.
 
Thus, in a world that has turned decidedly anti-American or at least holds negative views toward the United States, the BBG websites are not likely to be websites of choice.  This has happened in Russia and the Middle East and is the most likely outcome in China if the BBG ends its radio broadcasts in Mandarin and Cantonese.
 
This is what the American taxpayers are “buying” with the BBG’s Internet-only goal.
 
Another favorite tactic used by the agency in the article was to cite cooperation with the agency’s employee unions as a demonstration of its “most improved” status.  However, a close reading of the article cites only comments made by an agency official and no comment from any officials from the unions that represent agency employees.  Thus, once again, we have one side of the story.  The unions have their views co-opted by the agency without the opportunity to comment before an article is published.
 
It should be remembered that the agency has been locked at or near the bottom in these employee surveys since they began.  As noted recently, at this pace, it will be mid-century before the agency might break into the top third of rankings, if ever.
 
Conventional wisdom is to heed the remarks of Mr. Ensor.  Though we would wish it to be otherwise, this long, slow crawl up the mountain most likely has a bad ending for agency employees.
 
The Federalist
October 14, 2011
 
 

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