The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 


The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one’s country. 


Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 


While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 


Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 


But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:


– From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  


– With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 


– Just recently, we’ve seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 


– We have also seen many years of pay freezes–with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!


– The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 


– Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 


– There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 


– Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of “conduct” issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.


– The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 


While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 


For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 


Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country–from the front lines to the back offices–we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Tired of All The Whining About China

I don’t know about you, but I am so tired about all the whining about China. 


– They are stealing our intellectual property. 


– They are hacking into our systems. 


– They are unfairly forcing us to transfer technology to them.


– They aren’t opening up their market to us. 


OMG stop the complaining already!


If you don’t like what they are doing, then do something about it. 


Tariffs are a start, but just a small one. 


Seriously, if you can’t incentivize them to stop the harassment and unfair trade practices by adding them to the World Trade Organization, investing in them, and partnering with them, then you need to actually compete with China. 


– They steal our sh*t–you help yourself to a generous serving of theirs.  


– They break into our systems–you find your way into their systems.


– They try to unfairly take away our markets and jobs–you take away theirs big time.  


Everyone knows that to deal with bully, you must fight back!


The more we are scared into inaction, the worse it gets.


This doesn’t mean that we should get into a military exchange with China, but we do need to get into a confrontation over what economic and global partnership should mean and look like. 


China is an old and truly great nation and their people should be highly respected.


However, the USA should also be treated right, and if that means it’s time for a heart to heart and some evening up of the playing field then that is what has to happen. 


We have to restore respect to America, not by becoming bullies ourselves, but by standing up to them when we are being taken advantage of.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Get a Huge Hierarchy or a Big Fat Flat

So organizations are a funny thing.


Too hierarchical and you can get lost in the maze of corner offices.


Too flat, and there is no one to make a darn decision. 


Huge hierarchies can be costly and inefficient, but flat as a board organization are mob rule.


I think there has got to be a happy medium.


– One, where there is leadership, accountability, a reasonable span of control, and room for professional growth. 


– Two, where there is dignity and respect for everyone, and your tile and level doesn’t make any difference in terms of having your voice heard and being able to make a difference. 


Hierarchies that reach to the pompous sky and flat organizations where all the air is let out and nothing can get done are those that need to be hailed away in a big menacing orange wheel lock.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The DIVIDED States of America

Our nation is increasingly polarized with little to no tolerance of others wants, thinking, or actions. 


– First under Obama.


– Then with the election between Hillary and Trump.


– And now over Judge Kavanaugh.


The result has been some of the worst behaviors seen since the Civil War–with not only disrespect, restrictions on freedom of expression, but even threats and actual violence!


This nation is no longer the UNITED States, but much more like the DIVIDED States. 


And that just plays into our enemies hands and could lead us to eventually lose our very democracy to totalitarianism, dictatorship, and tyranny.  


So now may be a good time to review for yourself how many biases are driving your thought processes and behaviors and creating dangerous fundamentalists and extremists all around us instead of thoughtful dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. 


Here are 20 biases that may be affecting you more than you realize:


– Do you overestimate the importance of the information you have or feel good about (Anchoring,  Availability, and Choice-Supportive Biases)?


– Do you seek out and perceive information that simply validates your preconceptions (Information,

Confirmation, and Selective Perception Bias)? 


– Do you overemphasize information that is more recent or recognizable (Recency and Salience Biases)?


– Are you ignoring information that doesn’t “fit your script” (Ostrich Effect/Omission and Conservatism Bias)?


– Are you tied up in the groupthink of your peers (Bandwagon Effect)?


– Do you see patterns in random events or conspiracies that don’t exist (Clustering Illusion)?


– Are you overconfident in your thought process and conclusions (Overconfidence Bias)?


– Do you tend to overvalue the usefulness or success of something, but not recognize its limitations or failures (Pro-Innovation and Survivorship Bias)?


– Do you fail to take risks because you prefer certainty (Zero-Risk Bias)? 


– Does your thinking something will happen actually cause it to happen (Placebo Effect)? 


– Do you use the ends to justify the means (Outcome Bias)?


– Do you judge people by their race, class, gender, religion, sexual preferences, or national origin (Stereotyping)?


– Do you fail to recognize your own biases (Blind-Spot Bias)?


Perhaps if more people would open their minds to information and engage in genuine thinking and critical thinking, rather than a lot of fake news and hype, we would be a far better and stronger nation. 😉


(Source Graphic: Business Insider)

One G-d, Many Stories

So we went to the mall and there was a new Indian gift store.


We went in to take a look, and they had all sorts of things, but one section had a lot of colorful statues. 


We didn’t even really know what we were looking at when one of the young lady salespeople came over to explain. 


And she’s pointing to different statues and saying that this is the “G-d of love,” this is the “G-d of prosperity,” this is the “G-d for removing obstacles,” etc. 


I said to her questioningly (non-judgmental), “So we are Jews, and we believe in monotheism. How do you understand this concept of different ‘G-ds’?”


She said, “Well, I learned about these growing up in India, but the way I’ve come to terms with this is that these “G-ds” are really different ‘faces’ of one G-d” and then she started to tell us the “stories” of them. 


So in her explanation, when they are confronting challenges in life, they pray to the “face of G-d” that focuses on removing those obstacles, and when they are seeking prosperity then they pray to that “face of G-d” so on and so forth. 


It was interesting to me how this young lady came to find a monotheistic interpretation and path for herself and perhaps others who have similar beliefs.  


I wondered to myself whether this understanding can be in a way be similar to the Jewish concept of G-d having different attributes like midat Rachamin, din, etc. 


Of course, I know that G-d loves all of us, and I respect everyone’s personal beliefs.


For me and my traditional Jewish belief system, I wholeheartedly affirm as my namesake Abraham:

Sh’ma Yis’rael, Hashem Elo’kenu, Hashem Echad.
Hear O’ Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is one.  

 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Moshe Shalom)

Don’t Take Away The Breadcrumbs

So today it was announced that they want to cancel the meager cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase that federal workers were slated to get for 2019. 


A mere 2.1% increase in federal pay (compared with a more than 4% projected increase in private sector pay for 2018) is basically just enough to cover inflation for 2018 forecast at 1.9%.


In effect, without the cost of living adjustment, about 2 million federal employees end up with a net decrease of 2% in their standard of living because of inflation and no pay increase to offset. 


This is on top of the fiscal year 2011 and 2012 federal pay freeze that President Obama prior enacted. 


Why are we picking on the federal workforce when:


1) The U.S. economy is booming at an annual 4.1% increase

2) Of the $10 trillion tax cuts, 20% is being showered on the wealthiest 1%.


Le’s just call a spade a spade–the pay freeze (i.e. cut after inflation) is really being driven to downsize government by driving employees out


Many of these are good people, hardworking people, and those that not only serve their nation but also sacrifice for it. 


With midterms around the corner and another Presidental election coming in a couple of years, why would you want to alienate 2 million workers instead of getting respect and even greater dedication?


As was written on this simple pair of blue jeans:

“Don’t beat your croutons, you’ll get breadcrumbs.”  

In this case, don’t beat up your federal workforce by taking their meager breadcrumbs, to begin with. 


Instead, let’s show our appreciation for federal employees service to their country. 😉


(Full disclosure: I am a federal employee and am proud to serve.)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)