Voice of America Management Call to VOA Journalists: Volunteer for Ebola Vaccine And Report on Your Experience

BBG Watch Guest Commentary

BBG Watch occasionally publishes guest commentaries. This one is from several current and former Voice of America journalists, some of whom prefer to remain anonymous.

Views expressed here are only those of the authors and not of BBG Watch, its volunteers, or sponsors.

We invite those with opposing views and others who want to comment on this or other issues followed by BBG Watch to submit their op-eds for consideration.

Anonymous

Volunteer for Ebola Vaccine And Report on Your Experience

By Current and Former Voice of America Journalists

Voice of America (VOA) executives may be desperate to make a good impression on Andy Lack, a respected journalist and media executive named by the BBG board to become Chief Executive Officer of the federal agency in charge of U.S. taxpayer-funded international news media outreach.

SEE: Voice of America promotes N. Korean press release-like VOA news report as exclusive, BBG Watch, Oct. 23, 2014.

Andy Lack has not yet taken up his post.

Meanwhile, just-released initial Broadcasting Board of Governors results from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) show further declines in employee morale and increases in negative employee perceptions of the agency’s leadership despite senior management’s attempts to win over the workforce with Bingo Nights and Ice Cream Social parties, which many rank-and-file employees and their union find offensive and designed to avoid carrying out serious management reforms.

As reported earlier this year by Joe Davidson (February 2014) in The Washington Post, since 2007, the BBG has been at or near the bottom in the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” ratings, issued by the Partnership for Public Service using FEVS data.

In response to the statement “I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders,” there was a 6.22% decline between 2013 and 2014. Only 39.53% employees gave a positive response to this statement in 2014.

In the wake of this latest news of disappearing faith in Voice of America leaders, VOA Management made a bizarre appeal to VOA journalists to volunteer for Ebola vaccine trials. The call was made without apparently giving any thought for its impact on employee morale and practical consequences for a news organization, from which reporters may travel to Ebola-infected areas, if anything should go wrong with the test.

MediaBistro.com’s FISHBOWLDC reported on an email from a VOA manager to the VOA Newsroom staff, “Calling VOA Volunteers: Receive Ebola Vaccine And Report on Experience, By Nick Massella, MediaBistro.com, FISHBOWLDC, Oct. 17, 2014.

AS REPORTED BY FISHBOWLDC

Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:44 AM
To: VOA Newsroom
Subject: Ebola test volunteer?

I’m just wondering if any of our correspondents or writers would be interested in becoming a volunteer for the Ebola vaccine being tested at Walter Reed, and then report or blog about the experience? Officials say there is no possibility of contracting Ebola from the vaccine because it does not contain the virus. They mainly seem to be interested in making sure there are no other side effects. (There is already one potential volunteer but I want to make sure everyone has a chance.)

This is how VOA journalists reacted in various private venues to a string of recent management actions at the Voice of America. These reactions were forwarded to BBG Watch by several sources.

ANONYMOUS VOA JOURNALISTS:

The agency’s senior leaders have had chance after chance after chance. They’ve failed. It’s time for them to go.

How dissimilar VOA editors and leaders are to Ben Bradlee.

How VOA is similar to the Secret Service (in terms of mismanagement).

This is a job [volunteering for Ebola vaccine and reporting on the experience] too important for anyone but managers!

Employees were disbelieving — it [the VOA Management’s appeal to VOA journalists to volunteer for Ebola vaccine trails] seemed so lame — people laughed about it, and thought the call was bizarre.

It’s [the VOA Management’s appeal to VOA journalists to volunteer for Ebola vaccine trails] journalistically unsound on many fronts….

Those of us who still care and try,…we have zero editorial leadership, no one to go to to act. I guess they are all awaiting [Andy] Lack’s arrival… the product be damned in the meantime.

I would like to write anonymously, of course, to honestly and accurately — without emotion — share exactly what is going on. Central [VOA News] is nearly dead, [VOA] English not far behind… there is a small pool of good reporters attached to the English website (very good in some cases). But that’s about it.

Is it possible for morale to improve in the Agency when it continues to be led by people who have either perpetrated a dysfunctional system or are its beneficiaries?

BBG Watch has learned that an attempt to get VOA management to respond to the call for Ebola vaccine volunteers story did not produce any results yesterday.

###

Significant Declines in OPM 2014 Employee Survey for BBG Senior Leaders’ Skills and Agency Management (Federal Government Entities Only)

 
 

I recommend my organization as a good place to work. 6.36% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce. 2.89% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

My organization’s leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. 4.79% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders. 6.22% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work? 6.78% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization? 2.27% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job? 5.96% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders? 3.9% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? 5.16% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

I have sufficient resources (for example, people, materials, budget) to get my job done. 2014 Percent Positive: 29.60%. 2013 Percent Positive: 35.12% 5.52% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

Promotions in my work are based on merit. 2014 Percent Positive: 28.15%. 2013 Percent Positive: 28.52% 0.37% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

Creativity and innovation are rewarded. 2014 Percent Positive: 28.47%. 2013 Percent Positive: 30.11% 1.64% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

In my work unit, steps are taken yo deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve. 2014 Percent Positive: 23.85%. 2013 Percent Positive: 25.28% 1.43% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal. 2014 Percent Positive: 45.20%. 2013 Percent Positive: 46.69% 1.49% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

Pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs. 2014 Percent Positive: 14.61%. 2013 Percent Positive: 15.38% 0.77% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 
 

BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS

2013 AND 2014 FEDERAL EMPLOYEE VIEWPOINT SURVEY RESULTS COMPARED

 
 

Recommend Organization As A Good Place to Work

2013

I recommend my organization as a good place to work. Percent Positive 2013 - 46.42%

 2014

I recommend my organization as a good place to work. Percent Positive 2014 - 40.06%

 

6.36% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

Commitment Of Senior Leaders To Workforce

 

2013

In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce. Percent Positive 2013 - 32.36%

 2014

In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce. Percent Positive 2014 - 29.47%

2.89% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

High Standards Of Honesty And Integrity By Organization’s Leaders

2013

My organization's leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Percent Positive 2013 - 41.79%

 2014

My organization's senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Percent Positive 2014 - 37.00%

4.79% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Respect for Senior Leaders

2013

I have a high level of respect for my organization's senior leaders. Percent Positive 2013 - 45.75%

 2014

I have a high level of respect for my organization's senior leaders. Percent Positive 2014 - 39.53%

6.22% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Employee Involvement

2013

How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work? Percent Positive 2013 - 45.41%

 2014

How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work? Percent Positive 2014 - 38.63%

6.78% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Information Sharing By Management

2013

How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what's going on in your organization? Percent Positive 2013 - 38.99%

 2014

How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what's going on in your organization? Percent Positive 2014 - 36.72%

2.27% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Management Recognition of Employee Achievement

2013

How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job? Percent Positive 2013 - 41.77%

 2014

How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job? Percent Positive 2014 - 35.81%

5.96% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Employee Satisfaction With Policies and Practices of Senior Leaders

2013

How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders? Percent Positive 2013 - 32.81%

 2014

How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders? Percent Positive 2014 - 28.91%

3.9% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Employee Job Satisfaction

2013

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? Percent Positive 2013 - 64.31%

 2014

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? Percent Positive 2014 - 59.15%

5.16% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

 

Employee Satisfaction With Organization

2013

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? Percent Positive 2013 - 47.30%

 2014

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? Percent Positive 2014 - 42.23%

5.07% Decline Between 2013 and 2014

COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO OPM 2014 FEDERAL EMPLOYEE VIEWPOINT SURVEY

FORMER VOA SENIOR CORRESPONDENT GARY THOMAS: The survey shows interesting responses on the some of the questions.

Just noting what got the LEAST positive % points, what jumps out the in the aggregate is that there is clearly a rampant and blatant culture of favoritism in management ranks regarding things like awards, promotions, raises, personnel utilization, and dealing with substandard performance. And only some 29% believe that “senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.”

One other observation, this on the makeup of the workforce: this is dissatisfaction from a long-standing work force. 59% of the respondents have been with BBG for at least 11 years, and up to 20 or more. And nearly 87% are 40 years old or older. These are experienced, committed people that have been repeatedly squashed by a clueless, uncaring, and deaf management on the 3rd floor.

The sad thing is, this is not news. These kinds of responses come in year after year, yet management is unwilling or unable to fix the root problems. If management really wants to know why they keep getting such lousy scores on the annual survey, I urge them to re-read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.” I am an Equal Opportunity Critic. I exculpate neither BBG/VOA management nor BBG Watch. Both have engaged in gross excesses and missteps in trying to advance their respective agendas.

FORMER VOA CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT DAN ROBINSON: When I stepped out of / retired from VOA in February of this year, it was with the knowledge that the fuller story about mismanagement, particularly in VOA’s Central News Division but also on the Third Floor, would eventually be told.

Others — such as “VOA Journalist” — have stepped up to tell the truth about this Agency and what needs to be done to salvage it. Many on the outside believe it is too far gone, and that is the very steep hill that must be climbed.

Those who prefer to bury their heads, or fail to stand up for others in the organization who have faced, and continue to confront, injustices — including damaging employment practices and discrimination, failures to provide adequate support to journalists, manipulation of the performance rating system . . . the list is quite long but can be found on the BBG Watch . . .are contributors to the decline.

 
 
 

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