7 days. That's how long the government has before it runs out of money. Depending on which article you read, the Congress is either preparing a last minute stopgap spending measure to avert the shutdown or the political divide is too great and a shutdown is inevitable. If that is the case, it would be the first government shutdown since 1995.
Either way, agencies are taking steps to prepare. Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service.
He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the uncertainty makes it a really difficult time for employees to focus on their day to day tasks and for leaders to keep them motivated.
"On OMB's direction, we are already seeing some agencies sending notifications to their employees to begin the preparation of what needs to happen in the midst of a shutdown. Who are your essential vs. non-essential employees? What services and programs can and should continue? Which ones should be put on hold. Inevitably the shutdown talk will suck all the oxygen out of the room. The shame of it is, that far from keeping folks focused on what is essential, the shutdown preparation becomes a major distraction," said Fox. "We all pay the price for that."
What can leaders do?
- Be completely transparent. Tell your employees what you know and what you don't know. Now is the perfect time for an all hands meeting. You need to tell them a timeline, explain who is essential and non-essential and what will happen if the government isn't open for business.
- Handle with care. Talking about who is essential and who is non-essential can be tricky. You have to refine some of those measure to say that in an emergency such as this, it is really about keeping the lights on and the train moving. This is not the full force of the federal government to effect positive change in the lives of Americans. It's not to say if you are non-essential you are not important, it's just to say you are not one of the employees required to keep the lights on. That messaging needs to be done exceptionally well with an exceptionally delicate touch to make sure people understand and can maintain their motivation despite some of the craziness.
- Vent frustrations. If you are frustrated express your frustration, but then reframe it to say that despite my frustration here is what i'm doing about it.
- Mission focused. You have elevate from the day to day difficulties, that are very real and need to be dealt with, but also help them to think about the larger frame. Let's not forget about why you are here. It is to do the work of the people. There is a nobility associated with it. Reminding people of that can help weather the storm a bit.
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