BBG Watch Commentary

Best and Worst Bosses, Federal Times Chart
Best and Worst Bosses, Federal Times Chart based on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) 2012 Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey

Federal Times reported that the Voice of America (VOA) has some of the worst bosses in the federal government based on surveys of government employees conducted by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The survey results apply not just to the Voice of America but to all federal employees of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), including its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), where most top managers work and set the tone for how employees are treated.

The surveys do not cover contract employees, about 40 percent of VOA workforce, who are treated even worse than government employees. They are denied most benefits and protections and are paid a fraction of what regular employees make. If they were included in the OPM survey, the results for the BBG would be even worse, BBG Watch was told by a top BBG official who wants to remain anonymous.

Tim Shamble, president of AFGE Local 1812, which represents BBG employees hit the nail on the head with his comments that the agency’s executives treat employees with contempt. The same group of managers have been doing this for years, destroying employee morale, and running the agency into the ground.

Ironically, the International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo assigned some of the worst offenders to fix the problem instead of removing them, which he should have done long time ago. A nice enough man, he is also a big part of the problem because of his inactivity.

Some members of the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors have been putting a lot pressure on Lobo to do something about employee morale. BBG Governor Victor Ashe has been especially outspoken in criticizing the executive staff and demanding action. He and two other BBG members, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, have joined forces to push through a number of management reforms. All BBG members also told IBB executives in no uncertain terms that they could not propose employee furloughs in response to the latest sequestration budget cut. In the past the usual reaction from IBB and VOA executives to any kind of budget reductions has been eliminating actual programs and programming positions while protecting their jobs and expanding their bureaucracy.

IBB Director Lobo had approved large bonuses (up to $8000 each) for his top managers in 2012 despite their dismal performance and dismal employee morale, as reflected in the OPM survey. All top IBB executives were rewarded several times more than the average reward for rank and file employees, including journalists. Outraged BBG members, who were not consulted on the bonuses, told Lobo to cancel future bonuses, sources told BBG Watch.

“Recently the agency conferred with the Partnership for Public Service on ways to strengthen staff engagement and make BBG a better place to work,” the agency reported. According to the BBG executives, “a great many staffers participated in lively workshops designed to identify specific actions to help begin addressing long-standing challenges at the BBG.” After a briefing by IBB and VOA managers, one AFGE Local 1812 member remarked, “This is absurd! I am so angry right now. I have to take a few hours to calm down.” During that briefing, many employees made the following observations:

1. It was noted by more than one person that the team leaders charged with fixing the problems are in many cases the same senior managers who were in charge at the agency as these problems developed.

2. There were suggestions that senior management is erecting an elaborate new bureaucracy to address the problems created by the existing elaborate bureaucracy.

See: “Morale boosting plan made some BBG employees highly skeptical,” BBG Watch, March 26, 2013.

Federal Times reported the following:

“Voice of America managers and supervisors also ranked near the bottom. Tim Shamble, president of AFGE Local 1812, which represents Voice of America employees, said there is almost no communication between managers and employees.

‘Managers are up in their ivory towers making their decisions, and they are just announced to the rest of us,’ Shamble said.

Because of continuous reductions-in-force and a series of union grievances that have gone to arbitration, employees do not believe management is on their side. “There is a definite divide here,” Shamble said.

Spokesman Kyle King said Voice of America takes these issues seriously and has rolled out a detailed plan to engage employees and promote communication and accountability. The agency also is forming issue-oriented teams that will implement employee suggestions. Those steps will be part of a multi-year effort to improve the workplace and raise employee satisfaction, King said.”

Read more: “Feds rank worst bosses, best bosses” by Andy Medici, Federal Times, March 31, 2013.

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