Five Tips for Federal Managers on Day One Post-Shutdown
Tuesday’s shutdown of the federal government has led to much discussion about the impact on those receiving government services. Equally important is a conversation around the impact to the 800,000 affected federal employees.
These individuals, stuck in a holding pattern, without pay and with no known end date in sight (the longest shutdown from December 1995-January 1996, lasted 21 days), wait for the resolution of an issue that impacts them significantly, but over which they have no control.
With strict orders not to work, no remote access to work email and, in some cases, a mandate to actually “turn in” mobile devices, there is little that agency leaders or managers can do in the interim to keep communications channels open with their employees. But when the government reopens for business, they must be quick to re-engage their people – building confidence, restoring morale and super-charging productivity to make up for lost time.
With that in mind, we share a few tips for Day One post-shutdown:
- Acknowledge the hardship. Take a cue from President Obama’s writers in the President’s October 1 letter to all federal employees in which he admitted they’d been treated “like punching bags.” Make it clear that you understand what the shutdown has meant on a personal level and that you can relate.
- Avoid pointing the finger. With frustration over partisanship at a high, avoid the temptation to affix blame or share personal views. While some venting is necessary and normal, prolonged discussion only allows the negative climate to fester.
- Welcome them back. Celebrate a return to normalcy with a team event that restores camaraderie and gives people a chance to reconnect with colleagues and talk about the way forward.
- Give employees something to rally around. Your team can’t solve a Congressional impasse, but what can they do? Look to channel the energy of a staff that is glad to be back at work into the projects and initiatives that most need the boost.
- Remind them why they do what they do. Your staff is composed of people who are committed to public service. Use examples from the shutdown to illustrate the importance of their work and how what they do day-in and day-out is making a difference.