Federal Sector Workplace is Most Violent According to Recent MSPB Report

View this article online at http://www.fedsmith.com/2012/10/22/federal-sector-workplace-is-most-violent-according-to-recent-mspb-report/
By • October 22, 2012 Comments

A recent MSPB survey found that 13% of federal employee respondents observed a violent incident in 2010.  According to the report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a result of 5% relating violent incidents in industry, state and local government asking similar questions.  If the survey sample is valid, nearly 300,000 Feds observed violent incidents at work as there are about 2.3 million Federal employees.

Is MSPB Planning for More Work?

According to the report, “Of the violent incidents observed by respondents to the MPS 2010, 15 percent resulted in physical injury, 10 percent resulted in property loss or damage…” that’s 25% total or about 75,000 incidents based on the survey.

I’ve been involved in Federal employee relations for almost 40 years.  The Agencies I’ve worked for or with would likely remove any employee who caused physical injury to another.  While some might not fire an employee for property loss or damage on a first offence, most would initiate removal if the damage was caused by violent behavior.

Historically, the number one cause for a Federal employee to lose a job has been leave abuse or absenteeism related.  Estimates are as high as 75% of for cause removals based on such abuse.  The other 25% arise from a mix of issues such as failure to follow instructions (insubordination by another name), unauthorized removal of government property (called theft before lawyers got involved) and  misrepresentation (lying stated more politically correctly).

So where are these 75,000 removal cases for violence?  MSPB better hire a ton of AJs if Agencies start getting tough on violence.  But what does MSPB suggest Agencies do?  The report calls for Agencies to adopt the following strategies to prevent workplace violence perpetrated by individuals internal to the organization:

  1. Fostering healthy organizational cultures that do not tolerate aggressive or violent behaviors;
  2. Completing appropriate pre-employment background checks;
  3. Training employees on workplace violence issues;
  4. Resolving serious workplace conflicts before they escalate into violence; and
  5. Administering human resources programs properly so as not to introduce undue stress into the workplace

I guess you can tell that two former union lawyers are running the Board from these strategies.   Let’s take a look.  All of these strategies place the responsibility on the Agency and not the violent offender.

  1. Instead of no. 1, how about the Board endorsing a zero tolerance policy regarding workplace violence?
  2. Instead of no. 2, why doesn’t the Board go back and reverse its recent rewrite of suitability determination cases which encourages bad behavior?
  3. Instead of no. 3, how about training and encouraging managers to address these issues as they arise?
  4. Regarding no. 4, is the crystal ball store open in D.C.?
  5. Regarding no. 5, it’s obviously HR’s fault.  If HR wasn’t administering leave, performance, award, discipline and other programs so effectively, there’d be nothing to worry about, right?
I Got Carried Away

I must apologize, I forgot that from these folks’ perspective, everything is management’s fault; that employees aren’t responsible for anything; and these two Board members will go back to representing the recently fired when they leave their current jobs and become union lawyers again.  None too soon.  None too soon.

As always, any opinions are my responsibility.

Based on discussions with some Agencies, and sponsored by RGS, I and some colleagues plan to offer a “Practitioner’s Course in Labor Relations” and a “Practitioner’s Course in Employee Relations” focusing on advising managers, using proven tools to enhance case management, and matters of interest to the specialist, advocate or attorney with a basic grounding in these programs. We plan to offer these around the country and in D.C. If you have an interest in learning more, please let me know. You can do so using the “contact” link at the bottom of this article. RGS has also given us the go ahead to do an update for practitioners this spring in the D.C. area. I’ll follow up with more information as arrangements firm up.

© 2014 Robert J. Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert J. Gilson.

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About the Author (  |   )

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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