The shutdown is over – resentments remain?

We’ve been away for some time now, so please don’t expect that we can return to normalcy in a day or even a week. We need each of you to take time, each hour, to check on your co workers and offer encouragement and comfort where necessary. We are one team, the best team in government and we are at our absolute best when we take time to care for each other. - NASA Administrator Charles Bolden 

Government is back in business after the 16 day government shutdown, but doubts, resentments and fears remain. "Those fears are to be expected," said Tom Fox. Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. 

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINISIDER program that it is up to individual leaders to get their employees motivated and focused on work. 

"It was really inspiring last week, to see so much sincere welcoming back of public servants. The Vice President was at EPA, Education Secretary Arne Duncan tweeted, "Welcome back team!" HUD Secretary Ron Donovan actually embraced some employees on their way back in to work. It was absolutely what they should have done, but now the hard day to day work needs to begin and they need to get employees back in and engaged.  They need to get focused on clearing that backlog from the last two and half weeks," said Fox. 

How do you prioritize?

"Prioritizing has to be job number one for leaders at all levels. Certainly leadership starts at the top. So, as much as the Secretary and Deputy Secretary can clarify priorities for folks those can trickle down to the frontlines. That way it doesn’t feel that you have to do two and half weeks worth of work in the course of 2.5 days. Leaders need to be realistic about what can and can’t be done," said Fox. 

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said - “We’ve been away for some time now, so please don’t expect that we can return to normalcy in a day or even a week. We need each of you to take time each hour to check on your co workers and offer encouragement and comfort where necessary. We are one team, the best team in government and we are at our absolute best when we take time to care for each other.”

"The Administrator pulls off that comment with incredible sincerity. Anyone who heard him, saw him, interacted with him, knows these are the words he lives by. He really does take a great interest in individuals and the lessons there for managers and supervisors at layers and levels below that of an agency head is to due the same thing.

Get Personal

"The power of one-on-one meetings is quite pronounced and yet I am some somewhat dismayed that not enough leaders do them. Even if you don’t feel like you have enough time to do them on an ongoing basis, now would be the time to have some one on one meetings with folks. Try to touch base with your employees and see if they are having any trouble. Maybe there are personal or professional issues. Do what you can as an agency supervisor to help them resolve those issues," said Fox

Communication essential

  • Communication is not just essential for your employees but your primary customers and stakeholders too. I think it is essential at this stage to communicate very clearly what needs to be done and what it will take to return to full speed. That sort of transparency allows everyone to have the same sort of expectations going into work and it prevents frustrations from building.
  • I can imagine that tensions will be riding high as people try to get their work done as quickly as possible. So, if you can go ahead and send that message clearly and quickly all the better.

Feels like there are some tensions between those who were furloughed and those who aren't?

"I think what is important is that as a manager in your one on one meeting with folks, clearly explain the situation and the circumstances. It is not as though those who were furloughed and not working and being paid, sought this out. Nobody wanted this, so you can not blame them or hold them accountable for circumstances beyond their control. Likewise, you can’t blame those that were working for being more up to speed and being more in the know. They were also victims of circumstances, they were not the authors of some maniacal plan to keep others at bay. Really preaching a good understanding of what it is like to walk in someones shoes and then really advocating and setting clear the expectation that you want people to be understanding and collaborating with folks whether you were furloughed or not," said Fox.   

Finding a silver lining?

"The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” perhaps in these circumstances leaders will see that there is a real call to action. You can’t simply rely on the old tricks of the trade to motivate their people. They will have to work harder, but once we are through this we may see a more engaged workforce," said Fox. 

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