AFGE Local 1812The union representing the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees commented on a recent statement by a top Voice of America (VOA) manager who asserted that there is no retaliation against employees at Voice of America, only perceptions of retaliation. VOA employees know better.

Perceptions of Reality

by American Federation of Government Employees, AFGE Local 1812

Did you know that there is no retaliation at Voice of America (VOA), only perceptions of retaliation?

That was the gem uttered recently by a prominent manager – one of those who live somewhere between reality – the way things really stand at VOA – and perceived reality – management’s view of how things stand at VOA.

This parallel universe has been at the heart of VOA’s woes in recent memory. And while some in management are to be commended for all of their recent and ongoing initiatives to engage employees and start a conversation, the sad part is that others are just barely beginning to get it.

This is not an attack on management. It is just another attempt to breach the perception chasm that separates the Agency management from its employees.

A parallel universe means that problems that employees grapple with in the trenches are either invisible to management or sit on a lower priority rung in the larger scheme of things. That is understandable. But while VOA awards Gallup a precious $50 million for reasons that are still foggy and metes out bonuses and awards to deserving and non-deserving executives alike, employees watch in disbelief as their ranks continue to thin, feeding their perception that the agency is on a warpath to end their bargaining rights. They see themselves stuck in the same rut every single day as they struggle with broken equipment, archaic computers and choking servers, rodent infestations, rude and sometimes vindictive supervisors (no, retaliation is not a myth), and a dysfunctional layer of support services. And if there is a perception that this is an unfair attack on support services, then feel free to revisit recent emails for reports of some of the most recent fiascos that VOA has witnessed.

Which part of this is Agency management not getting? VOA has an important mission and the people whose necks are on the chopping block year after year after year are the ones that accomplish that mission. And if over and beyond that, you have to fight every day to fix something you need to do your job, or put up with the Agency’s most recently-minted arrogant, rude supervisor, or if you lack the wherewithal to reach your audience, then the point is moot.

Yes, some in higher management are trying to improve the Agency’s image. And there has been a lot of earnestness and good will in trying to effect change. But down in the trenches, the perception is that IBB is getting fatter and BBG is muddling along the lines of yet another rift – its own parallel universe with VOA management – voices shouting in the wilderness where no one ever hears.

VOA’s is a parallel universe. To blur the lines between the two worlds, the disparate perceptions of management and rank-and-file must be melded before any real change can take place. And if ever they can see eye-to-eye, then their second task should be dragging the Agency’s middle strata, kicking and screaming, if necessary, out of the middle ages.
Short of that, change for those in the trenches is but a dream. Their “perceptions” of retaliation are in fact real.