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Civil Service reform? Or just gaming the system?

The current federal civil service program has many problems. The system is perhaps in need of some updates, to move it into the modern era. Some elements may seem obsolete and archaic. Of course, federal employees have their issues with the system. They are disciplined or subject to adverse job actions by their agencies, with appeals being heard by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and employees file discrimination cases that are heard by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The system is complex, but understandably so, given the variety of jobs federal workers perform. However, reforms have been suggested, designed to make federal jobs more like those of private industry. A survey by the Washington Post suggests that while some federal employees see some merit in the idea, many have deep distrust of the proposal.

They feel it is unlikely to be implemented fairly. Such a program was attempted in the Defense Department, where it failed due to employee mistrust. Of the current proposal, one respondent noted that such programs are "easily gamed" by those with connections, making them "impractical."

While in an ideal world, merit pay raises based on performance seem like a good idea, in most situations, they can be easily manipulated to produce any outcome agency managers want to obtain.

Goals and metrics can be created that have little connection to the real work of the agency and favored or connected employees can be rewarded, in spite of producing little of real value for the agency or the taxpayer.

While much talk reform is merely that, talk, if you have suffered discrimination in your workplace, you need to obtain legal help, as failing to aggressively deal with the problem will only allow it to continue unchecked, while negatively affecting your career.

Source: The Washington Post, "Feds talk: How do they feel about merit-based pay systems?" Josh Hicks, April 15, 2014

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