Flexibility in the Federal Workforce

One of the hardest challenges facing today’s current federal workforce is the ability to remain flexible in a continuously changing environment. Here are suggestions for success in this complex environment.

One of the hardest challenges facing today’s current federal workforce is the ability to remain flexible in a continuously changing environment. Whether you work in administration, security or another related field, the various factors within an agency will always require a federal employee to adapt and adjust to the changing agency, policy, program, procedures, supervision and oversight factors. Change factors can be in part controllable or out of reach such as the different economic periods in our society.

Policy Change

Perhaps you may be a part of decisions in changing policy, or perhaps you are subject to policy change from agency hierarchy in a headquarters location or local policy change from upper management in your chain of command.

When your organization and division is continually subject to policy change, from uniform policy to administrative procedure, this will create stress that can manifest itself in work performance and interoffice relationships with peers and supervision. Changes require alternate approaches, which are often necessary, when assessing work elements or personnel issues. Policy transformation requires the employee to rethink daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly approach to incumbent responsibilities.

Hierarchy Shift Change

The only constant when assessing upper level government hierarchy is the inevitability of change. Each year agency leadership has the potential for transition and as is usually the case, does on an even more frequent basis. Titles such as “administrators” or “deputies” or the other various leadership designations change ownership from one individual to the next. One of the key words here is “individuals” each individual brings to the table thought processes, work experiences and philosophies of what the agency or organization require. However, even the best of intentions cannot possibly foresee the consequences of decisions without adequate prudence and planning. Change has often been synonymous with the words “direction” or “path.” Change can be dependent on who is currently at the helm of the ship.

Environmental Shift Change

A broad based term for the unknown, the variables which cannot be anticipated or estimated. Take for instance the security industry. Threats evolve. We learn this as an infant taking in our surroundings. What causes us pain and how do we react to the threat? There are those that desire to cause us harm, to attack us. The threat can come in the form of an individual who is biased for one reason or another or from entire groups of people that would revel at our destruction.

There are multiple levels of threat mitigation from participating in the legal system; utilizing negotiation techniques and in other circumstances utilizing armed response to global threats. Change can be a part of a “domino effect” whereby situations are globally linked without control and change societies in vast ways. Key to remember is that change will often manifest itself from areas least expected.

How to Succeed and Remain Flexible

To those of you working for the Federal Government, I tip my proverbial hat to you. “Formidable” is only a string of letters with an associated and society designated meaning. One of the key elements in maintaining flexibility is to know your options—the ability to know that there are options and choices. This knowledge can assist in coping with whatever change is on the horizon.

We have the option to seek other employment, take advantage of dispute resolution processes and we have the option to obtain a degree and seek contentment elsewhere. However, one of the most common reasons for options not taken is due to fear. Fear of retribution, fear of the unknown. Fear of not knowing what the consequences of our actions will bring. Trust your instincts. When you base decisions from a solid grounding of objectivity, integrity and truthfulness, you never have to worry about second guessing your decisions.

Always develop your own strategy for thinking ahead. Be one step ahead from those that take things as they come. Expect the unexpected. Have a plan and a counter plan ready.

Think like a chess player. I am reminded of the theoretical experiment of Schrödinger’s cat, whereby “the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made. (That is, there is no single outcome unless it is observed.)” So, be prepared for any outcome. Again though I digress to discuss tactical intellectual warfare (which I find irresistible) I advise to always anticipate the moves in advance. However, be prepared to make compromises and concessions only so much that you do not concede your values of right and wrong and honesty and integrity.

Seth Gordon is an Inspector for the Department of Homeland Security (TSA) at JFK Airport and has operated in various security and administrative government divisions. Prior to the TSA, Seth worked in private industry, management and political affairs by serving in a legislative oversight capacity as the Chairman of Ethics for the City of Long Beach.