BBG Watch

AFGE Local 1812Federal employees who are members of American Federation of Government Employees AFGE Local 1812 union, which represents those who work for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), have given a failing grade to new top leaders, BBG CEO and Director John Lansing and Voice of America (VOA) Director Amanda Bennett.

In an article published on the AFGE Local 1812 website, the union wrote:

AFGE LOCAL 1812: “The Broadcasting Board of Governors, another regular bottom-feeder that oversees the Voice of America and other government broadcasters, also scored 56. But unlike DHS, BBG is going backward.”
That quote is from Washington Post federal affairs writer, Joe Davidson’s September 20, 2016 article. The story focused on the Department of Homeland Security and that agency’s results in the latest OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). Yet, it seems that the BBG’s reputation is so bad that Mr. Davidson couldn’t help but take a swipe and add a sentence or two about it.
[Link to the Washington Post column.]
One might have thought that with new Directors, the Voice of America (VOA) and the BBG would pull better, not worse, responses. Why the dismal numbers?
What happened subsequently was a classic example of the “business as usual” modus operandi. It didn’t take long for the entrenched bureaucracy to swoop in and isolate the new Directors and reaffirm its stranglehold on the Agency. Bureaucrats are renowned experts in sidelining new political appointees and their minions and convincing them to allow “those that know how” to run things and allow the appointees to “concentrate on more important things.” Today, when employees look at the top of the present bureaucratic Valhalla, they see many of the same old tired faces, the same stifling policies, the same hostile workplace, the same resistance to doing things a bit differently. Day after day, in what used to be one of the most challenging and exciting places to work in the federal government, rank-and-file employees trudge in, determined to do the best they can in spite of the dreary, out-of-touch management who seem to be eternally busy at their computers writing endless memos about how great the Agency is while in reality, the OPM Employee Viewpoint Survey tells quite a different story.
Following the example of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company which met with its front-line people when it was facing bankruptcy to find out what went wrong, maybe it’s time for less of the top-down management style in our Agency and more of the “from the bottom-up” open and frank and direct conversations with the rank-and-file without the filter of the entrenched bureaucracy. As the woeful recipients of the “bottom feeder” and “worst place to work in the federal government” monikers, what do the new Directors have to lose.

READ MORE: Another F for a Bottom Feeder Agency, American Federation of Government Employees, AFGE Local 1812, October 2016.



BBG Watch Commentary

While the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) was also part of the federal survey, the union noted earlier than OCB appears to be much better managed than the entire agency and VOA. Strictly speaking, the failing grade came from the employees, not from the union, but the assessment is obvious.

The agency’s new top leader, John F. Lansing, has no prior experience in government operations, international affairs, intercultural communications, U.S. foreign policy, or U.S. public diplomacy. While Lansing was a successful manager in the private entertainment TV industry, he does not know how to lead and communicate with Voice of America journalists. His recent email to staff, in which he tried to put a spin on the dismal 2016 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for his agency, made some of them quite angry. One VOA reporter who does not want to be identified by name, commented:


VOA REPORTER: “We are all adults there and do not fall for his explanation of FEVS. We are very capable to read it correctly.
‘We are improving’ ???? You must be kidding, Mr. CEO!”


READ MORE: CEO Lansing explains for BBG employees their FEVS answers, BBG Watch, October 7, 2016.


VOA’s new director Amanda Bennett is a Pulitzer-winning journalist, but she has no prior experience in leading a large public media organization with an international focus and no prior experience in dealing with special interest groups within ethnic communities in the United States and abroad.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which conducts the government-wide survey of employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and employee assessment of their supervisors and top agency leaders, reported correctly that while BBG employees were slightly more satisfied in 2016 than in 2015 with some of their work conditions, they were definitely not more satisfied with John Lansing and other senior leaders and their ability to engage with staff.


In the all important Employee Engagement category, BBG lost two points. The survey was conducted from May 3, 2016 to June 14, 2016, eight months into John Lansing’s tenure at the agency.


In the Engagement Index Tend – Leaders Lead, the Broadcasting Board of Governors lost one point from 2015 to 2016. This seems to be a commentary largely on John Lansing since the survey shows that BBG employees have a far more positive view of their supervisors than of their senior leaders.

Engagement Index Trends - Leaders Lead - 2016 FEVS
Engagement Index Trends – Leaders Lead – 2016 FEVS




John Lansing
John Lansing

BBG CEO John Lansing’s Perspective



From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 12:35 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: 2016 FEVS Results Explained

Dear Colleagues,


As some of you may have already noticed, the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) has begun releasing government-wide 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results.  I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of the gains realized during this past year, as well as some of the ongoing challenges that we are still working on.


But before I do that, I want to quickly reiterate one key point that I have made from the beginning: your honest feedback is driving key actions to plan new ways to better meet your needs.  So, please continue to provide your thoughts and ideas for how to improve morale and workflow here at BBG.  We need your energy and input if we are going to continue making BBG a better place to work.


While it is clear that we have a number of ongoing challenges to address, our 2016 results show that BBG continues to make improvements in becoming a more inclusive and open place to work.  I am happy to report that the Agency has improved in the following areas:


  1. Fair                                      ↑ of 7.1%: comprised of questions 23, 24, 25, 37 and 38
  2. Open                                   ↑ of 2.7%: comprised of questions 32, 34, 45 and 55
  3. Global Satisfaction           ↑ of .9%: comprised of questions 40, 69, 70 and 71
  4. Cooperative                       ↑ of .3%: comprised of questions 58 and 59


Scores also improved on 22 key questions ranging from your opinion of the Agency’s standards of honesty and integrity to the Agency’s ability to recognize employees for the outstanding work they perform.  I have included below a list of the areas where we saw improvement and the percentage change over last year.

We lost ground on some indices; for instance, our score on Engagement fell slightly by two percentage points from 58% positive in 2015 to 56% positive this year.  To see how we scored on specific questions and learn more about survey results go to the agency FEVS page.

I encourage everyone to visit the website to examine some of the government-wide comparisons and to become a registered user on the site to access BBG’s results for Employee Engagement as well as Global Satisfaction.  As a registered user, 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 e-mail address.  For those of you with email address, please use your username and in order to access the site.  If you have any questions about your access to the dashboard, please contact

Our scores this year reinforce the need and importance of the work currently underway by our Workplace Solutions action teams, and I will make sure to leverage these efforts in addressing the challenges identified by our survey results.  Action teams are working on the 23 recommendations and 13 of these are now partially or fully implemented.  This includes the new mentoring program which is kicking off next week and the creation of the Workplace Solutions feedback mailbox where you can ask questions or make suggestions about workplace issues by writing to

We will continue to make employee satisfaction a priority and be responsive to your feedback.  Please become familiar with the above resources and use the Workplace Solutions feedback mailbox to share your ideas, criticisms, or further insights.



John F. Lansing

Chief Executive Officer and Director

Broadcasting Board of Governors

Individual Question Results that Improved from 2015

Question Question No. 2015 Score 2016 Score Improvement
Employees are recognized for providing high quality products and services.




↑ 20.4%

Awards in my work unit depend on how well employees perform their jobs.




↑ 17.4%

*Pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs.




↑ 15.4%

*In my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way.




↑ 13.1%

*Creativity and innovation are rewarded.




↑ 10.5%

*How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?




↑ 8.4%

Arbitrary action, personal favoritism and coercion for partisan political purposes are not tolerated.




↑ 6.8%

My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.




↑ 6.0%

How satisfied are you with the following Work/Life programs in your agency? Alternative Work Schedules (AWS)




↑ 5.7%

*Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?




↑ 5.3%

Policies and programs promote diversity in the workplace




↑ 4.9%

*How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?




↑ 3.7%

I have sufficient resources (for example, people, materials, budget) to get my job done.




↑ 3.4%

*How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in your organization?




↑ 3.3%

*Promotions in my work unit are based on merit.




↑ 3.1%

*In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.




↑ 3.1%

The skill level in my work unit has improved in the past year.




↑ 2.4%

Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?




↑ 2.0%

*My training needs are assessed.




↑ 2.0%

My supervisor is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society.




↑ 1.9%

*My work unit is able to recruit people with the right skills.




↑ 1.0%