Office of Zombie Personnel Management

Office of Zombie Personnel Management

You can talk to a zombie but don't expect them to listenA few days ago, we had a snow storm come through the Washington DC area.  Just a few hours before it hit, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced Federal Employees should depart 2 HOURS earlier than their normal departure time from work.  Unfortunately, if you were anyone in the Washington DC metro area and you left 2 hours earlier, you were screwed!  I heard of people being stuck in traffic for up to 12 hours, trying to get home.  It was a combination of people not using their own brains and OPM not knowing how to react to the weather.  There were a lot of people angry at OPM for making the late call and underestimating the volume of people leaving at the same time (due to the storm).

One issue is the Federal Government has been really slow to adopt telework.  When there was a threat of pandemic flu, they appeared to be paralyzed with fear, at the thought of people actually working from home.  Many of us (contractors) tried to explain we would actually get more work done, if we had the opportunity to telework.  If more people were teleworking, fewer would be out there messing up traffic.  Last year, when the Federal Government shut down for 4 days due to snow, many of us sat at home and did nothing.  It wasn’t by choice, mind you.  We were not authorized to do any work outside the office.

Part of my frustration rests with the fact that in the corporate world, teleworking or having distributed teams is not uncommon.  It’s not perfect but I would say it works.  We’ve figured it out, leveraging a combination of communication tools and approaches.

The other main issue is the lack of practical wisdom or the desire to just take care of people supporting the Federal Government.  I’ve previously quoted the definition of Practical Wisdom as

Have the moral will to make right by people.
Have the moral skill to figure out what doing right means.

As a contractor, for the last 2 days, I’ve been in the office.  If I was not, I won’t be paid.  For the last 2 days, this notice has gone out.

With forecast conditions for [date] highly variable and may include ice, sleet, and freezing rain, concern for safety is paramount. To protect the safety of Federal workers and our community, maintain continuity of operations and assist employees in planning accordingly, OPM has announced for [date], the option for unscheduled leave/telework.

Well, the freezing rain did not come.  Yes, the parking lots yesterday morning were icy.  But, the roads were fine yesterday and they were fine today.  If fact, the forecasted high temperature for today is 54 degrees!

Because OPM announced all Federal workers could either take leave or telework, most did.

Let’s see how much work gets done today.

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4 Replies to “Office of Zombie Personnel Management”

  1. Been in those shoes at my last engagement (contractor for Gov. agency). IMHO, Fed Gov needs to invest in IT infrastructure (upgrade systems, h/w and security etc.) and revisit their policies around people (employees as well as contractors). I am not suggesting bringing in state of the art eye scanner, but please they do need upgrades. Revisit these 2 (infrastructure and policies) that will enable and empower people to do work from anywhere (in case of an emergency).
    Irrespective of the party in power, these policies should NOT change (for worse) and be revisited to make them better by qualified leadership. Every time there’s some new captain on the ship, if we keep changing the course according to their direction – the ship will never get to it’s destination and will be lost in the sea.
    Irrespective of the captain, there needs to be a team who will be focused on destination and not about the personnel on ship and operating policies.

    1. Well said!

      Too often I rhetorically ask “Does this make sense?” The true tragedy has been the responses I’ve heard, like “That’s just the way it is”. Since when is the status quo the only answer?

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